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'Enemy of the People' runs in familiar waters

PUBLISHED: 19:36 17 April 2008 | UPDATED: 13:12 05 October 2010

A FAMILIARITY nags at me while watching Henrik Ibsen's An Enemy of the People, the story of one man forced to stand up and speak the truth when a community shuts its eyes to the danger in its waters. Then it comes to me

Ibsen's Enemy of the People

Review by Peter Sherlock

A FAMILIARITY nags at me while watching Henrik Ibsen's An Enemy of the People, the story of one man forced to stand up and speak the truth when a community shuts its eyes to the danger in its waters.

Then it comes to me. Swop the hero, Dr Thomas Stockman, for police chief Martin Brody, and a Norweigan spa town for Amity Island, and you have the plotline of Steven Spielberg's classic Jaws horror flick.

Both stories are fierce attacks on liberal cowardice and the hysteria of people when trying to protect their own interests.

Dr Stockman (Greg Hicks), a popular, urbane figure, discovers the spa, the lifeblood of the town, is contaminated with bacteria.

He plans to publish his findings in the town's newspaper.

But his cold-eyed, pragmatic brother, Peter (Christopher Godwin) uses his influence as the town's mayor to suppress the report.

The play charts Stockman's growing disillusionment as the hysterical public turn against him en masse.

Rebecca Lenkiewicz's adaptation of Ibsen's late 19th century play brings out the comic arrogance of Stockman as his manic pursuit of the truth leads him dangerously into egomania.

Despite this excess of pride, the doctor's determination to expose the hypocrisy of the town is the moral heart of the play.

This excellent production, packed with bold and vital performances, attacks the moral flabbiness of society.

Like Spielberg's screen masterpiece a century later, it is not afraid to bear its teeth.

An Enemy of the People is at Dalston's Arcola Theatre in Arcola-street until Saturday week, April 26. Tickets: £15 (£10 concessions).

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