The Enemy…is too easy to spot

The Firehall Arts Centre is presenting The Enemy, which is an adaptation of Henrik Ibsen's An Enemy of the People.

Against all odds, Jenn Griffin keeps a naturalistic performance alive in The Enemy. (Photo by Emily Cooper)

God save good art from simplistic politics.

Donna Spencer has adapted Henrik Ibsen’s An Enemy of the People, which premiered in 1882, to create The Enemy—and by “adapted” I mean “shrunk”.

In Ibsen’s story, Dr. Stockmann, the medical officer for a new spa in southern Norway, has discovered that the spa’s supposedly healing waters are contaminated with bacteria that are causing typhoid and other gastrointestinal illnesses. But the town’s economic development depends on the success of the spa and, so the townspeople gradually turn against him, declare him an enemy of the people, and do everything in their power to discredit and silence him.

It’s easy to see the contemporary relevance and appeal: environmental concerns, economic greed, fake news.

But in Ibsen’s telling, Stockmann is a flawed human being, which allows for complex dynamics. Spencer’s Stockman, on the other hand, is much more purely heroic, so Spencer’s version of the story is black-and-white, predictable—and dull. [Read more…]

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