by Henrik Ibsen in a version by Christopher Hampton.

Crucible Theatre To 20 March 2010.
Tue-Sat 7.30pm Mat Sat & 24 Feb, 10 March 2.30pm.
Audio-described 24 Feb 7.30pm, 4 March.
BSL Signed 16 March.
Captioned 9 March.
Post-show Discussion 25 Feb. 16 March.
Runs 2hr 45min One interval.

TICKETS: 0114 249 6000.
Review: Timothy Ramsden 19 February.

Fine, boldly-staged production.
Is he, or isn’t he? Medical officer for the spa-town’s new baths, Tomas Stockmann, a man of science rushing with childlike naivety into declaring the waters are polluted; is he an enemy of the people, or not?

Long-term, he’d save the town from the consequences when visitors became unwell. But the locals, looking to quick profits, are easily persuaded by cheap fixes. Don’t we know that? Isn’t there an election coming up?

Ibsen came ferociously fresh to this play following the mauling given his previous piece Ghosts. So a kindred sympathy with Stockmann to be expected. But, as Antony Sher’s fizzing performance makes clear, there’s a sinister side too. All the financial waywardness and free-spirited hospitality of the first act, and the inability to see how unwelcome his scientific discovery would be, turns to rancour and denunciation at the public meeting where he’s prevented from delivering his speech on the baths.

Sher shows how positive energy curdles into rancour when it meets stubborn, unscientific resistance. By the end of the public meeting he’s all set for dictatorship, and in the final act stands apart, across the stage even from his family of sympathisers.

It’s the more notable because of the simple, venial opponents among the town liberals Stockmann comes to despise when they let him down – he had seen them as comrades till then. Like tradesman Aslaksen who wants to “forge ahead with moderation” in Christopher Hampton’s translation, pointed and punctuated with phrases of modern public parlance.

The Right-thinking Establishment’s represented by Stockmann’s brother, Peter, so careful with his mayoral regalia – having removed his official hat on visiting his sister-in-law he dons it again when political enemy Hovstad arrives. Ever the politician, Peter’s ready to strike a sort of deal, despite long-standing impatience with his brother’s ways. John Shrapnel, manipulating those around him, then sitting silently observing the impact, provides a thoroughly-inhabited performance, giving the Mayor an individuality beyond a mere Establishment figurehead.

Each character has the weight they deserve in Daniel Evans’ production, while Ben Stones’ set disguises the stage being larger than most scenes need. An auspicious re-opening.

Katrine Stockmann: Lucy Cohu.
Billing: Brodie Ross.
Peter Stockmann: John Shrapnel.
Hovstad: Trystan Gravelle.
Tomas Stockmann: Antony Sher.
Horster: Chook Sibtain.
Morten: Toby Gardner/Harry Haddow.
Ejlif: Max Gardner/Sam Henderson.
Petra Stockmann: Suisannah Fielding.
Morten Kiil: Roger Bingham.
Aslaksen: Phillip Joseph.
Erik: Chris Brailsford.
Lamstad: Daniel Poyser.
Peterson: Alex Blake.
Mr Vik: Charles McCurdy.
Boys: Edward Crann, Jay Olpin, Daniel Mitchell, Ted Mitchell.
Townspeople: Tanya Addy, Jane Allen, Jodi Anderson, Ray Ashmore, Kristin Atherton, Simon Atherton, Jeanette Bailey, Claire Baldwin, Chris Barker, Christine Bellaqmy, John Biggin, Rose Biggin, Susan Burns, Alison Cartlidge, Sue Casson, John Castell, Ray Castleton, David Chafer, Caroline Cooper, Ami Crofts, Jenny Derbyshire, Julie Fancher, Alison Fell, Christine Futter, Michele Gardner, Cora Gordon, Lesley Hayes, Victoria Husband, Andrew Jeffery, Jude Jenkins, Samantha Kidd, Mick Langan, Lewis Mason, Philip McKenna, Rhiannon Morgan, Becky Morley, David Myers, Rob Myles, Elizabeth O’Leary, Paul Pigott, Juliet Portchmouth, Andrew Rafferty, Elise Rhode, Janice Sampson, Michaela Short, Jean Simpson, Toby Steers, Vivien Stuart, Neil Sullivan, Nigel Summerell, Kirsty Surgey, Nicola Taggert, Gemma Thornton, Ian Troops, Emma Upton, Deborah Van Eke, Jasmine Warwick, Jocelyn White, Leah Woffenden, Barry Worthington, Kendra York, Owen York.

Director: Daniel Evans.
Designer: Ben Stones.
Lighting: Tim Mitchell.
Sound/Music: Ben and Max Ringham.
Fight director: Terry King.
Assistant director: Dan Coleman.

2010-02-22 17:45:26

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