REVIEW: An Enemy Of The People at The Old Fire Station

“The majority is never right. Never! Who do you think makes up the majority? Intelligent people or a load of bloody fools?”

In this new adaption of Henrik Ibsen’s An Enemy Of The People by local theatre company Flintlock, the protagonist has cleverly been switched from male to female, providing an opportunity to examine how women that speak out are often falsely labelled ‘emotional’ or ‘paranoid’ by those who don’t agree with them, or those who themselves have something to hide.

Dr Tamsin Stockmann (Leonie Spilsbury) has helped turn the struggling town of Upford into a thriving tourist destination, thanks to her part in making a successful business out of the local water springs. But when her academic research reveals a huge spanner in the works, she doesn’t anticipate how telling the truth could destroy her life and career – a painfully current theme.

A vibrant house party kicks off proceedings: jubilant music blares out as the cast hand out breadsticks to the crowd, elaborately pour drinks and encourage some willing audience members to dance.

As the story unfolds, multiple issues effecting our lives in the 21st century are tackled, such as how the powers that be, the press (and more recently social media) filter, prioritise and manipulate the information and news we receive.

Tieing in with how technology has changed our perceptions is the on-stage media screen, displaying tweets from the characters, adding to the feeling of hostility towards Tamsin once she breaks rank. As friends and family become foes, her proven truth battles against ‘alternative facts’.

Some of the actors took selfies with the theatre-goers in the interval, providing them with Trump-style red hats emblazoned with the words: ‘Make Upford Great Again’. Intertwining these current social and political references into this classic text brought it shrewdly up to date and engaged us all.

The second half ramped up the tension as Robert Durbin, Owen Jenkins and Ben Ashton’s characters gang up against Tamsin at a town meeting. As she defends herself in a searing speech, the audience within the play are meant to be against her, but I was cheering inside. Everything she said was how I personally feel about society at the moment and was certainly refreshing to hear. Others obviously agreed.

As Tamsin and her daughter Petra (Nazerene Williams) are left picking up the pieces of their lives, despite their gloomy circumstances, the show ends on a defiant note.

This is a slick production that demonstrates how those who tell the uncomfortable truth are often ostracised and suffer because of it; yet how crucial it is to tell these truths to power.

See it at the Didcot's Cornerstone Arts Centre on October 24.

Naomi Lanighan 4/5