Young Vic updates Ibsen's 'gripping' Public Enemy

May 20, 2013

Young Vic blows the dust off this classic play about politics, the environment and whistle-blowers

What you need to know
A new adaptation of Ibsen's Public Enemy, better known as The Enemy of the People, has opened at the Young Vic Theatre. Richard Jones directs this version of Ibsen's classic by playwright David Harrower, which shifts the action to the 1970s.

The play tells the story of Dr Stockmann, who finds dangerous bacteria in his home town's new spa, but instead of being thanked for making this life-saving discovery, he is silenced by the media and politicians and his career is ruined.

Nick Fletcher stars as Dr Stockmann and Darrell D'Silva as the corrupt local mayor. Until 8 June.

What the critics like
This revival of Ibsen's Public Enemy "makes it sharply topical and relevant", says Charles Spencer in the Daily Telegraph. Jones's gripping production blows the dust off this piece about ecological dangers and even manages to raise some laughs in what was the closest Ibsen got to a comedy in his mature masterpieces.

"The Young Vic has a special line in putting classic plays through the mincer and producing something startling and fresh," says Sarah Hemming in the Financial Times. Here Jones tackles Ibsen with provocative comic zest and sharply satirical staging.

"This is the Young Vic at its most vigorously upfront," says Libby Purves in The Times. Ibsen's angry play was a howl of protest against the establishment-led populism, hovering between satirical comedy and straight drama - "it's a class act".

What they don't like
David Harrower might have been advised to totally rewrite Ibsen's plot for the modern world, says Michael Billington in The Guardian. Of course, this was already done with spectacular success in Jaws, "which feels far closer to Ibsen's spirit than this jangling update".

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