Lucy Cohu and Antony Sher in "An Enemy of the People"
Sheffield has two great theatres. There's the Victorian splendour of The Lyceum with its traditional proscenium arch and balconies and there's the concrete nineteen sixties' Crucible with its big thrust stage. That building also accommodates a more intimate studio theatre. The Crucible, famous for the World Snooker Finals which are held there every spring, has been closed in recent months for refurbishment. The first major production after the makeover has been Henrik Ibsen's "An Enemy of the People", reworded by Christopher Hampton.
I took a semester long course on Ibsen at university and when I visited Norway six years ago, I made sure that I included his hometown of Skien in my itinerary. The country house he bought during a time of bankruptcy is situated a couple of miles north of the town. It overlooks a shallow green and peaceful valley with apple trees in its garden. The citizens of Skien thought enough of their most famous son to erect a statue in his memory and the house is now a seasonal museum.
Skien in Norway with Ibsen's statue in the centre.
Written in 1882, "An Enemy of The People" focuses upon Dr Tomas Stockmann. In The Crucible production his part was played quite brilliantly by Sir Antony Sher. Stockmann is a man against the world but motivated by selfless intentions. He has discovered that the town's water supplies have been polluted by local industries and is especially concerned about the new spa baths that are expected to bring in hundreds of tourists and boost the town's ailing economy. But because of greedy self-interests, nobody in authority will listen and he is ostracised by his community. At the very end of the play, in painful isolation he says