Tag Archives: Paul Hilton



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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The Inheritance – 4 Stars


The Inheritance

 Noël Coward Theatre

Reviewed – 13th October 2018


“Seeing a play on the West End that so unashamedly and honestly tackles gay male relationships (sexual and otherwise) feels in itself a remarkable achievement”


Epic in almost every sense of the word, ‘The Inheritance’, now enjoying a West End transfer after a sell-out run at the Young Vic, demands seven inspiring, moving, riveting hours to tell a story about how stories are shaped, and how they in turn shape those who listen to them.

A group of men are trying to tell their life stories but need help. Enter E. M. Forster, whose ‘Howards End’ forms the basis of Matthew Lopez’s ‘The Inheritance’, to help the boys along. Expertly played by Paul Hilton, ‘Morgan’ – with the help of the cast – becomes our narrator, introducing us to Toby Darling (Andrew Burnap) and Eric Glass (Kyle Soller), whose rocky relationship the play centres around. Taking place almost entirely in Manhattan, New York, the couple face eviction, jealousies, successes and failures, all the while embracing and reflecting upon the lives of gay men over the last hundred years with each other and the group of friends that surrounds them.

At its core, Lopez has woven an intoxicating tapestry of a show that demonstrates the problematic importance of legacy and community, especially for gay men today. We hear lots of stories. How these stories come together is the nature of ‘inheritance’. How do we learn how to be gay men? From each other? And what happens when that community of exchange breaks down? Drawing on the emotional devastation of the late-eighties/early-nineties AIDS crisis, Lopez suggests the trauma of one generation should be the next one’s inspiration.

Bob Crowley’s sparse design is gorgeously simple, and along with Stephen Daldry’s astute direction, exposes the theatricality of the endeavour, whilst giving the cast plenty of space to play. The often cumbersome narrative elements to the play are expertly handled by the cast and director, who places his actors almost constantly on stage, listening, commenting and waiting for their turn. The need to flip on a dime from exposition to ‘scene’ is wittily and effectively handled by the cast at large. Burnap is mesmerising in his performance as Toby Darling, larger than life, hilarious, yet always hinting at a dark past, the reveal of which the audience really has a long wait for. Kyle Soller is equally courageous in his performance, able to be sentimental without parody and believably naïve all the way through to the end. Andrew Burnap and Syrus Lowe stand out in a tight, generous and incredible ensemble.

‘The Inheritance’ is essential viewing for everyone. Seeing a play on the West End that so unashamedly and honestly tackles gay male relationships (sexual and otherwise) feels in itself a remarkable achievement. I would argue Lopez could have trimmed down this story by a few hours and we wouldn’t have minded, but this emotionally stirring and inspirational production is well worth getting cramp for.


Reviewed by Joseph Prestwich

Production photography by Marc Brenner

Cast image below by Johan Persson

The Inheritance

 Noël Coward Theatre until 19th January


Previously reviewed at this venue:
Quiz | ★★★★ | April 2018
The Lieutenant of Inishmore | ★★★★ | July 2018


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