Tag Archives: Matt Smith



Duke of York’s Theatre

AN ENEMY OF THE PEOPLE at the Duke of York’s Theatre


“The performances are superb. Matt Smith, as Dr. Thomas, owns the stage.”

Before Henrik Ibsen even became a playwright, he was well known for his controversial, anti-establishment opinions. His early works, and poetry, revealed his rebellious nature as he challenged convention and criticised society. His dramatic works cut deeper into the darker side, holding up a mirror to human nature and its inherent hypocrisies. Inevitably he was met with divided opinion. “An Enemy of the People” was no exception, and Thomas Ostermeier’s modern adaptation (translated by Duncan MacMillan) looks set to be equally divisive.

Co-adapted by Florian Borchmeyer, the play’s structure is also two-sided; the interval acting as a sharp watershed between two very different landscapes, even though it overlooks the same, indeterminate, Middle England spa town. It opens with a song. The main players comprise a shaky, indie-folk-rock band, the initial conversations breaking away from the music then weirdly segueing into Bowie’s ‘Changes’. It is difficult to determine whether this subplot has a purpose, or whether it is a surreal contrivance, but it soon gets forgotten anyway. The music is definitely not their day job.

Dr. Thomas Stockmann is the chief medical officer at the town’s spa baths. He has discovered that the spa’s water is contaminated. Wanting to do all he can to alert the citizens he enrols newspaper hacks Hovstad and Billing to run the story in order to prevent the town being poisoned – possibly to death. He faces opposition in the shape of his brother Peter, the town mayor who sees the closure of the baths as the death knell to the town. There is tension too between Thomas and his wife Katharina, the local upstanding yet radical schoolteacher.

The dialogue bounces along breezily, occasionally bogged down with the earnestness of late-night-student-digs debates. Yet the writing recognises this pitfall and manages to pre-empt the charges and poke fun at itself. “You sound like an undergraduate” quips Thomas to Hovstad. The blackboard walls of Jan Pappelbaum’s set are strewn with pseudo-scholarly slogans, which are eventually whitewashed over – figurately and literally. The arguments that are dished up, however, are chillingly pertinent and so close to the bone that there isn’t enough skin left to make crawl.



The performances are superb. Matt Smith, as Dr. Thomas, owns the stage. A lone wolf howling at the moon, his single-mindedness streaked with a naivety and good intentions, while Jessica Brown Findlay’s Katharina stands by him, despite being constantly at the end of her tether. Shubham Saraf, as journalist Hovstad, feeds Thomas’ fervour, encouraging his crusade like Lady Macbeth. Is he after the truth, though, or just a good story? His own quest for the truth dissolves in the saliva from the Judas kiss he plants on Thomas. Fellow journo Billing is ultimately equally disloyal – Zachary Hart giving an outstanding performance as the comic foil. There is much humour too in Paul Hilton’s mayor, Peter. As smooth and slippery as an eel his words drip from his angular grimace. The naked face of capitalism and pragmatism that is all too familiar on our front pages. Katharina’s father, Morten Kill, is an imposing figure in Nigel Lindsay’s hands. Bizarrely an Alsatian dog is also in his hands, presumably a metaphor for the dark, shady, business-minded aspects of Kill’s character beneath the leftist veneer. The dog is too friendly and well behaved to pull it off, however. Conflicts of interest also plague Aslaksen, the newspaper’s publisher. Priyanga Burford brilliantly swings from devout, self-serving pragmatism to obsequious cowardice in a glorious deadpan and often funny performance.

The second act is a completely different beast. Much snappier and forceful, it is full to the brim with contemporary, post-Brexit, post-Covid references and up-to-the-minute echoes of modernist realpolitik. It rips down the fourth wall completely, inviting the audience into a ‘Question Time’ scenario. It is obvious there are some plants in the audience, but the effect is immediate and chilling. The real coup is Matt Smith’s tirade at the podium. Brilliantly and convincingly delivered. Smith is flawlessly believable, earning his ovation, whether one agrees with him or not.

A paint splattered transition leads us into the final, short act. The journey there has been almost as messy as the stage now is (I pity the backstage crew) but it has been swaggering, anarchic and fearless. And we are rewarded with an unexpected hook. In the course of the last two hours is has been difficult to decide whether Thomas is an enemy of the people or an enemy to himself. A final twist – a mere meeting of eyes – will help you decide.

AN ENEMY OF THE PEOPLE at the Duke of York’s Theatre

Reviewed on 21st February 2024

by Jonathan Evans

Photography by Manuel Harlan



Previously reviewed at this venue:

BACKSTAIRS BILLY | ★★★★ | November 2023
MUCH ADO ABOUT NOTHING | ★★★★ | February 2023



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Ain’t Too Proud


Prince Edward Theatre

AIN’T TOO PROUD at the Prince Edward Theatre



“great songs, sensational dance but lacks emotional content”


Ain’t Too Proud, described as The Life and Times of The Temptations, directed by Tony-award winner Des McAnuff, and based on founder band member Otis Williams’ own memoir, is a whistle-stop journey through the history of the band from Otis’s discovery of music as a way off the Detroit streets, to becoming part of one of the most successful R&B groups of all time.

Otis tells us of his ambitions from the outset, “Singing is going to be my salvation” and the ethos of his group is that of all band members are brothers, “We all men, we all equal”. As the demanding life on the road, and the usual reliance on drink and drugs, takes its toll on the group, this maxim is severely tested. But, in essence, there isn’t a lot of life depicted on the journey and only a cursory look at the times. What there is, is some sensational song and dance routines.

The tour de force of this show is the outstanding Sifiso Mazibuko as Otis Williams. Stepping in and out of the song and dance line to narrate the story without missing a beat, he is close to ever-present throughout and if he begins to show signs of flagging by the finish, we can put it down to the aging of his character.

The opening half of the show though lacks spark. The songs are excellently performed and look amazing, but they are presented in small snatches, an accompaniment to the narrated story, which in itself does not excite. This begins to change with the arrival of the unpredictable David Ruffin (Tosh Wanogho-Maud) into the band and The Temptations’ first number one hit, My Girl. Some extra colour is provided with the inclusion of a three-song medley from The Supremes, described by Otis as The Temptations’ main rivals, which is one of the first act highlights. And as an example of how the songs reflect the narration, the group sings If You Don’t Know Me By Now just as Otis and his wife Josephine (Naomi Katiyo) split up.

As the group becomes more successful and looks to cross-over into the mainstream, a question is raised as to whether they are doing enough for fighting racial inequality. A clause in the band’s performing contract means their audience must not be racially segregated but the vital question is left open as monochrome projections show images of Detroit and Memphis ablaze, followed by the assassination of Martin Luther King.

Extra poignancy is found in the second half with the suicide of singer Paul Williams (Carl Cox) and images of the Vietnam conflict accompanied by a snatch of War (What is it Good For). The musical performance gets a lift too with longer song numbers, and a light show, particularly with the Reunion Tour and seven singers on stage rather than the usual five. The over-extended story of recording Papa Is A Rolling Stone becomes connected with Otis’s own story of missing his son growing up but any empathy is quickly swallowed up into the outstanding final number.

Ain’t Too Proud has great songs, sensational dance but lacks emotional content.



Reviewed on 19th April 2023

by Phillip Money


Photography by Johan Persson


Ain't too Proud  

Recent five star reviews:


The Net Kill | ★★★★★ | VAULT Festival 2023 | March 2023
After The Act | ★★★★★ | New Diorama Theatre | March 2023
Dance Of Death | ★★★★★ | The Coronet Theatre | March 2023
The Black Cat | ★★★★★ | King’s Head Theatre | March 2023
Britanick | ★★★★★ | Soho Theatre | February 2023
Cirque Berserk! | ★★★★★ | Riverside Studios | February 2023
Dance Me | ★★★★★ | Sadler’s Wells Theatre | February 2023
Gay Witch Sex Cult | ★★★★★ | VAULT Festival 2023 | February 2023
Hedda Gabler | ★★★★★ | Reading Rep Theatre | February 2023
The Lehman Trilogy | ★★★★★ | Gillian Lynne Theatre | February 2023


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