Director: Jette Steckel
Writer: Henrik Ibsen, translated and adapted by Frank-Patrick Steckel
Cast: Joachim Meyerhoff, Dorothee Hartinger, Irina Sulaver, Mirco Kreibich, Martin Schwab, Ole Lagerpusch, Peter Knaack, Matthias Mosbach, Friederike Bernhardt, Martin Mader
Seen on: 26.4.2018
The town is doing well ever since it managed to get tourists due to a mineral spring. After a string of sicknesses, town doctor Thomas Stockmann (Joachim Meyerhoff) believes that the spring is actually polluted. He informs the authorities, in particular his brother Peter (Mirco Kreibich), the town’s mayor. But it’s election year and Peter really doesn’t want to risk his position by threatening the town’s biggest source of income – and his biggest success.
Ein Volksfeind is a really fantastic production of a highly political and frustratingly current play. I absolutely enjoyed it.
I didn’t know Ibsen’s play before seeing this production, so I don’t know how much Steckel changed in his adaptation. There were some references that were very obviously to current events, but the overall thing does seem to be unchanged – as are the politics the play so succinctly criticizes – politics and politicians more interested in staying in power than using that power for anything worthwhile. The play and its content alone would have been enough to make the evening engaging and thought-provoking in any case.
But that’s not all the play offers. The stage, as is so often the case in the Burgtheater, is rather minimalistic and black (and I’m not necessarily a fan of that by now because I have seen it too often). Breaking through that sterility, though, is the fact that they have the actors literally iceskate on stage (I don’t know what they coated the stage with to make that possible), giving the whole thing on the one hand a lot of dynamic it would have otherwise been missing and also giving them the opportunity to work it as a metaphor: the people who arrange themselves with the system glide through it. People like Thomas who try to put their feet on solid ground, start slipping and falling.
This culminates in a brilliant moment where Peter literally skates and pirouettes around Thomas while doing the same verbally/rhetorically. It’s one of the best moments of theater I have ever seen, with an impressive performance by Kreibich who outshines even Meyerhoff here.
The other thing that breaks through the black-stage-monotony is the use of huge garden gnomes on wheels that crowd the stage. It’s not only a striking visual and absurdly funny, as is the ice-skating, but again a pretty interesting metaphor of the “little man” being actually pretty huge, but also silent, vaguely threatening and definitely not convinced by arguments.
All of this makes Ein Volksfeind smart and enjoyable theater that combines a sense of humor with critical thinking. It’s absolutely worth seeing.
Summarizing: Loved it.