An Enemy of the People

An Enemy of the People
ActNow Theatre for Social Change – Ayers House Museum (SA)

Rebecca Lenkiewicz’s version of Henrik Ibsen’s An Enemy of the People was charmingly set in the Ayers House Museum, amongst memorabilia, paintings, artifacts and architecture of a time gone by, and excepting for a few choice garments not particularly representative of the play’s era, was a convincing backdrop to the piece by ActNow Theatre for Social Change, directed by Edwin Kemp Atrill.
ActNow have bravely challenged their audience with a complex political play, at what could only be considered a significant moment in Australian history - amidst debates, policy announcements and rhetoric of a Federal Election, with Australia’s first female prime minister at the helm of the ALP. The subject matter of the play; one man’s stand against the health and wellbeing of a population which is being impacted upon by the very thing which affords them their jobs, their town and their very existence, is remarkably similar to the headlining policy of our two major parties, being the environmental impact of acting on carbon emissions and the introduction of an ETS.
The young cast has triumphed, however, and delivers an outstanding performance full of light and shade, which accurately and skillfully delivers its objective with vision and clarity. The relatively small audience, comprised predominantly of theatre writers and critics, didn’t seem to deter this excellent young cast at all, and performing only a few feet away from their “audience in the round”, they gave an emotional quality which was very believable.
Guy O’Grady in the lead role of Dr Stockman was by far the standout of the performers. His character was solicitous and considered. O’Grady’s Stockman was the hero of the play, whose moralistic integrity would not be diminished in his pursuit of the truth and common good. Playing opposite O’Grady as both brother and political opposition was Kurt Murray. Murray gave us a strong believable Mayor, and his characterisation was especially fine during heated argument scenes. Sarah Dunn and Catherine Story made up the rest of the Stockman family as wife and daughter respectively and both gave fine performances.
The balance of the players, including Alexander Ramsay, Nicholas Cutts, Felix Alpers-Kneebone, Ailsa Dunlop and Loki Reef Macnicol, all support the ensemble beautifully and give O’Grady the bag for his almighty punch. This play is a must see, and despite the few fashion faux pas, and the inevitable blocking that occurs with the theatre in the round concept, it was a moving and exciting production and definitely worth a look!
Paul Rodda

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