Ibsen’s The Enemy of the People has always been a peculiar changeling: it is the first play that made the destruction of the environment its central theme, but it is also – and at least as much – a lampoon written in a blind rage by a playwright who felt himself betrayed and misunderstood by the whole world after a major flop.
But it is precisely this subjective, thematically unclear, loose fluttering ribbon that pulls the material straight into the present, which gives it its “unrest” and a quite extraordinary energy.
It is a story of the angry, uncontrollable dynamic that arises when someone questions the fundamentals of the system of life around him and, in so doing, seems to put his very existence at risk. Ultimately, this triggers war. A war where in the first skirmish people might keep arguing about dirt, emissions, approach paths and rubbish dumps. And when the real fighting begins, it is still about social ostracism, character assassination, bankruptcy, isolation and obliteration. A war in which individuals easily lose their political and moral identities. A war that draws everyone into a web of greed, anger and fear. Fear of losing everything – status, belongings, reputation, certainty – even love. (Ulrich Zaum)