I've seen a lot of things happen at the Gate Theatre. Crooked salesmen, digging their own graves. A woman throwing up in a stranger's living room. A man named Krapp eating bananas. This is the first time I've come across an angry mob.
Indeed, director Wayne Jordan could easily have turned things sideways so that Dr Stockmann (the unfortunate Enemy of the People) says his bit about polluted water without ever leaving the stage.
But where's the fun in that? If you really want to make an audience feel as though they're in the middle of a riot, then you've gotta place them in the middle of one.
The effects are astounding as Stockmann is chased from a town meeting in which 'the majority' of Kirsten Springs' citizens refuse to accept the idea that their renowned spring water baths – a huge source of income for the Norwegian town due to their supposed medicinal values – may be poisoned.
Initially, Stockmann's friends (newspaper types and a cigar-smoking sailor) believe him. Or so it would seem. This is the 1950s – telling the truth can have serious consequences. Especially when your brother is the mayor. And so, when the good doctor requests that his report run in the local paper, his brother intervenes and the witch hunt begins.
Arthur Miller's beguiling adaptation of Henrik Ibsen's classic poses many questions on truth, morality and warring siblings. Mad Men comparisons will be made what with the jazzy soundtrack, a few nice suits and the occasional alcoholic beverage. The Stockmanns' suburban dwelling looks cosy, too. As expected of a play that includes more than a dozen actors laughing, shouting and throwing stones, An Enemy of the People is quite a busy piece of work. It's all the better for it.
An excellent Fiona Bell plays Stockmann's long-suffering wife; Bosco Hogan, his mysterious father-in-law. Denis Conway as the strict mayor comes close to stealing the show. Yet again, however, Declan Conlon – one of the finest stage actors in Ireland – goes beyond the call of duty, this time as the doctor. Stockmann will lose his temper while reassuring his children that everything will be OK. By the end, Conlon appears to have endured most of his character's stress. He looks wrecked. That's what great acting will do to you. HHHHI
Running until July 13