Anonym anmelder i The Times
Those who had no previous acquaintance with Ibsens The Enemy of the People, and who saw that play at this theatre yesterday afternoon, cannot have failed to experience a sensation of surprise, for the name of Ibsen in this country has hitherto been associated with work which is full of enigmas and obscurities, intelligible only to the elect, and here we have a play which everybody can understand. Whether its perfect lucidity will be recognized as a merit by the devotees who possess special gifts of insight, and for whom puzzles like The Master Builder are pregnant with meaning, is a question admitting of doubt. The average playgoer, however, who acknowledges that his visual powers cannot penetrate through a milestone is grateful for this total absence of obscurity. There are, in The Enemy of the People, no allegorical references to aerial harps, no allusions to symbolical vine-leaves; the motives of the characters are clear and their actions are those of sane people. It is not a cheerful story that the dramatist has chosen to tell, but his selection of an unpleasant theme is justified by its evident purpose, which is to show to what depths of meanness people will descend when they allow themselves to be influenced exclusively be reasons of self-interest. In another of its aspects the play is a scathing satire on the limitations of the parochial mind. The central figure of the small society whom the author introduces to us is an honest and enthusiastic doctor, who holds the position of medical officer of the bathing establishment at a health resort. The new baths which have been built are expected by the municipal authorities to attract visitors in large numbers to the town, but the doctor discovers that the water-supply is polluted, and proposes to make the fact known. Thereupon he meets with opposition on all sides, his own brother, who is the burgomaster of the place, taking the most prominent part in the attempts that are made to dissuade him from his purpose. At first he has the promise of the support of the local newspaper, but when it is pointed out to the managers that the effect of publishing the news about the baths will be to deter visitors from coming to the town, and that if the truth is known structural alterations will have to be made, involving the ratepayers in considerable expenditure, they change their views at once and refuse to print the doctors explanatory articles. Determined to be heard, he calls a public meeting, but his purpose is frustrated by the local authorities, who successfully obstruct him, being supported in their action by the ratepayers, who will not listen to any unpleasant statement affecting their pecuniary interests. Before leaving the platform the doctor is, however, able to deliver a strong denunciation of the tyranny of majorities, which might be listened to profitably by many politicians. The meeting breaks up in confusion, but not before a resolution is passed branding the convener as «an enemy of the people.» The mob, untouched by his appeals to their sense of justice, subsequently break the windows of his house with stones, and he and his family are subjected to a rigorous persecution. The people thus try to frighten him into keeping silence about the baths, and, on the other hand, some of his nearest relatives tempt him not to disclose the true state of things, with promises to provide for the future of his wife and children. His intentions are misconstrued and the townspeople impute to him the same sordid motives by which they are actuated themselves, but neither threats nor temptations avail to make him swerve from his determination to do the right thing. Abandoned by his friends and reviled by his foes, life in his native town becomes impossible for him, and regretfully he prepares to seek an honester place. As the curtain falls he gives utterance to the belief that «the strongest man on earth is he who stands alone,» which is the solitary paradox of the play. From the sketch given of the subject it will appear that the piece is more interesting than attractive. It contains nothing picturesque, and is one of the few theatrical productions from which a playwright has been bold enough to exclude what may be called the love-motive. The characterization is exceptionally good and unexaggerated, and the actions natural and convincing. In fact, so determined has the dramatist been that his play should be true to life that he has not excluded from it some dull moments. The piece was put upon the stage in a manner worthy of the Haymarket Theatre, and the cast was carefully chosen. Mr. Tree, as the doctor, acted admirably, especially in the scene of the public meeting, and was well supported by Mr. Kemble, who appeared as the burgomaster. Mr. Welch was the exact counterpart of the provincial journalist of a certain type, and Mr. E. M. Robsons dry humour in the part of the time-serving printer, who is for ever counselling moderation, was greatly appreciated. Efficient service was also rendered by Mr. Allan, Mr. Clark, Mrs. Wright, and Miss Lily Hanbury. The performance, which was loudly applauded, is to be repeated.