‘The Enemy’ National Theatre of Scotland (Edinburgh King’s Theatre) | Review By Lewis C. Baird

‘The Enemy’ is National Theatre of Scotland’s latest touring production, based on Henrik Ibsen’s ‘An Enemy of the People’. This re-envisioned play follows a Scottish town going under a massive redevelopment project that promises to bring money, jobs and new prospects to its forgotten population. However, when Dr Kirsten Stockmann discovers a dangerous secret, she knows she must bring the truth to light – no matter the cost. 

Hannah Donaldson leads this production as Kirsten Stockmann, a struggling woman who is trying to juggle motherhood and also her professional career. This is a deeply engaging and energetic performance from Hannah. Kirsten’s journey within this play requires a versatile actress to be able to drive the narrative and hit every emotion as we follow her torment. Hannah does not skip a beat. Hannah’s portrayal unquestionably wrings the emotional cues from the text. Especially the raw anger. This is a harrowingly exquisite portrayal which is truly captivating to watch. 

Billy Mack as Derek Kilmartin pulls the audience in with the disguise of a friendly auld Scotsman, doing well to mask the character’s true dark nature, by using the play’s comic dialogue as a device. When the veil is lifted, Billy shifts his portrayal brilliantly. This is a superb performance of a complex and twisted character. 

Neil McKinven as Benny Hovstad initially gives us the portrayal of an atypical editor in the 21st century, looking to accurately represent real news. The humour and strong dynamic Neil shares with Donaldson’s Kirsten, is an enjoyable relationship to watch. As the play develops and we see a shift in Benny’s situation, Neil delivers a candid performance of a troubled and selfish man. This is yet another profound performance. 

Taqi Nazeer represents the modern media generation in Aly Aslaksen. Taqi does well to portray Aly as a multi skilled presenter, however the real gem in this performance is the underlying suspicions and guilt. You never felt as if Aly was a bad guy for how deeply uncomfortable he seemed surrounding the major cover up. Taqi characterizes Aly perfectly as a young man who could be classed as “woke” when it comes to corrupt media. This is an engaging and energetic performance from Taqi. 

Gabriel Quigley is outstanding as Vonny Stockmann. Gabriel’s presence alone as Mayor Stockmann is commendable, but the portrayal of Vonny’s vile intentions and corruption is laced with brilliantly devious nuances. Gabriel brings us some of the most uncomforting scenes in this production, through a gripping and villainous performance. 

Eléna Redmond gives us a young woman, fighting for social justice, in the form of Petra Stockmann. Eléna’s portrayal gives possibly one of the most accurate insights into the current young generation of Scotland. The intrigue, awareness and sarcasm hinted in the text are all utilized and portrayed brilliantly by this young actress. 

The writer of this production, Kieran Hurley, adapts Ibsen’s work into the 21st century with naturalistic dialogue, a superb adapted storyline and well rounded, realistic characters. This play well and truly holds up a mirror to the audience, especially in regards to use of social media. It is a very current and horrifically accurate insight into the UK’s current post COVID climate. Finn den Hertog’s direction of this production embraces the contemporary themes hinted in the text. Finn’s direction is faced paced and relies on the actors to give a raw and unfiltered performance. Jen McGinley’s set design immerses the action in a multi-purpose corporate setting. The space works brilliantly and does not restrict the action, plus with the implementation of Lewis den Hertog’s video design being projected onto a screen, we feel we are directly in the action and see the flawless set up close. Katharine Williams’ lighting design helps to shift the setting and aptly fits the emotion for every scene. With this McGinley’s costume design lifts the realistic setting, and visually helps build the actor’s/actress’ characterization.  

‘The Enemy’ is possibly the best Scottish play produced in the last decade. This is simply because the writing, cast and direction are all of such a high standard. With this there is a brilliant capturing of a modern Scotland, one which many plays have struggled to depict previously in this digital age. The disturbing reflection on our current society is one which hit the audience hard and perhaps is a lesson that this social media generation can learn from? 

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Tickets are available for the run at the Edinburgh King’s Theatre below:


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