We've been drinking poison

'The Enemy" (Wróg) – dir. by Finn den Hertog – National Theatre of Scotland Production – King's Theatre, Edinburgh

The newest production of National Theatre of Scotland delivers a radical adaptation of Ibsen's all-time classic, An Enemy of the People.

Kieran Hurley's reimagination of Ibsen's original emphasises its universalism and – most of the time – it effectively translates the initial plot of the classic into contemporary reality. The main character, Kirsten Stockmann (Hannah Donaldson), is the main initiator of the Big Splash Beach Resort – a brave and innovative project that will bring hundreds of jobs and tourists to the small and forgotten town on the Scottish West Coast. Just in time when the project is nearly fully completed, Kirsten finds out that – because of the company's neglect – the water, that is supplied to the city and that is going to be used in the resort, is contaminated, and poses a threat to the health and safety of many people. Hence, Kirsten enters the warpath against some powerful personas – a local politician and her sister, Vonny Stockmann (Gabriel Quigley), an influential journalist and her friend, Benny Hovstad (Neil McKinven), and a significant businessman and her former father-in-law, Derek Kilmartin (Billy Mack). Although some decisions behind the plot, for instance, the fact that it takes only one email to undermine a whole gigantic project, seem to be a bit too naïve, the story is generally catching and intriguing.

Hurley, however, is especially successful in translating the themes of the original script into a contemporary setting – Kirsten and her daughter, Petra (Eléna Redmond), receive a lot of cyberbullying and hate after Kirsten's thrilling article, quickly becoming personae non gratae in the local community. The play efficiently represents the struggle between the interests of politicians, businessmen and media, who will do anything to remain in power and save their public image – even hide a painful truth that could possibly save the lives of thousands. The current coronavirus crisis showed us explicitly how relative the truth can be, depending on the narrative of politicians or media supporting them. Having that in mind makes watching The Enemy a truly disturbing experience.

Much good can be said about the acting in The Enemy, as every single performer managed to create a unique and complex character. Nevertheless, it is especially Hannah Donaldson and Gabriel Quigley, who offer the most attention-grabbing performances. The daring nature of Donaldson's Kirsten and the determined character of Quigley's Vonny create a dynamic and intense conflict. Slowly unfolding throughout the entire play, this conflict establishes itself as one of the most essential pillars of the show. Besides that, another worth-mentioning performance is the one of Eléna Redmond – her representation of Petra, an easy-going and perky schoolgirl; thanks to her witty and casual punchlines, she quickly came to be the main source of comedy in the play.

What also stands out in Finn den Hertog's staging, is an interesting approach to the visual side of the production. A very modern set prepared by Jen McGinley creates a unique space that smoothly transforms from one location to another. An important role here plays the use of the cinematography; hidden within the set cameras observe the actors and the video is being transmitted to the screen above the construction. The use of such a technique reinterprets the physical space of the scene, as sometimes the viewers can see action from another room that is completely unavailable to their eyes. Sometimes, however, it shows the main scenic action, but from a completely different angle. That offers the audience a vast space for various interpretations of the same scene.

The newest production of National Theatre of Scotland provides us with a fresh insight into one of the most important plays of Western theatre. A very stirring and thrilling sense of topicality of den Hertog's show overshadows some weak points of the plots, making it an indeed curious theatrical experience.

★ ★ ★ ★ ☆

Polish version

Jan Gruca
Dziennik Teatralny Scotland
26 października 2021
Finn den Hertog

Książka tygodnia

Stanisława Walasiewicz. Medaliści
Wydawnictwo Bosz
Redakcja: Marzena Jaworska

Trailer tygodnia