Archive | September, 2014

Review: An Enemy of the People

27 Sep

An Enemy of the People,Tarragon TheaterTalk about starting with a bang. Artistic Director Richard Rose has opted to present an English translation of a German adaptation of Norwegian playwright Henrik Ibsen’s An Enemy of the People as the Tarragon Theatre’s 2014/2015 season opener. It sounds like the kind of project that could have easily and almost literally gotten lost in translation but Rose’s bold choice as AD of the company and equally bold choices director of the production pay off in no uncertain terms.

At the heart of Enemy is a modern moral dilemma; When Thomas Stockmann (Joe Cobden), a small town’s well-meaning doctor discovers that the town’s spa’s waters are contaminated with waste and bacteria from factories upstream from the source, he sees the problem as having a simple solution – move the spa’s water intake further upstream. But with the spa being the town’s primary source of income and his solution representing a serious threat to its financial viability, others around him, including his brother Peter (Rick Roberts) – a business-friendly town councillor – and his friend Hovstad (Matthew Edison) – the anti-establishment leaning editor of the town’s paper – react to his findings far less pragmatically, leaving him trapped in the middle of an ideological battle. Soon, Stockmann’s simple determination puts him at odds with the rest of the townsfolk – whose motivations are not all as noble – and he ultimately finds himself in the surreal position of having to defend what seemed like solid moral high ground as well as his own good standing in the community.

Although Florian Borchmeyer’s adaptation may not have been penned with Canada or Toronto in mind, the parallels are hard to miss. Our contradictory economic dependence on the oil sands and distaste for its ecological consequences is the most obvious, but the less honourable side of City Hall politics, which we have become all too familiar with, also permeates the dramatic proceedings. This is most wonderfully obvious when, during a scene taking place at a town meeting, the boundaries of the production are busted wide open in glorious fashion. If there is one weakness to note, it is the occasional stylistic inconsistency of dialogue; while the production is fully modern in most respects, some lines still have the musty air of an age of didactic theatre gone-by and clash with those that have been more artfully updated.

While the ensemble cast – which also includes Tom Barnett, Brandon McGibbon, Richard McMillan, and Tamara Podemski – and their performances are all very strong (Roberts is at times particularly fun to watch romp around in hysterics), it is Rose’s unconventional staging that steals the show. Making no attempt to create a sense of visual realism, Rose imbues the production with imagery scrawled in chalk on the slate walls of the set (designed by Michelle Tracey), using the idea of “black and white” both a stylistic and thematic statement. Recognizable pop covers performed by the musically adept cast add extra layers of meaning while reinforcing the mood of artifice. Even the no-brainer concept of actors playing to the audience is tested, with Cobden at times delivering lines to the walls, effectively enhancing his sense of isolation.

The whole thing is a wonderfully slow and thought provoking burn that eventually builds to a delightful state of mania. Here’s hoping the entire season is this good.


Preview: An Enemy of the People

15 Sep

TARR GRAPHIC 01_enemy-1Tarragon ranks as one of Toronto’s most reliable theatre companies so there is good reason to be excited for their 2014-15 season debut, an adventurous take on Henrik Ibsen’s An Enemy of the People, which is helmed by Tarragon AD Richard Rose and features a cast jam packed with talented names (see the full press release included below). Previews start on September 16th and the show officially opens on the 24th. Tickets are available on the Tarragon website.

Tarragon Theatre launches its 2014-15 season with an English-language rendition of Florian Borchmeyer‘s and Thomas Ostermeier‘s celebrated adaptation and production of An Enemy of the People by Henrik Ibsen. In what promises to be one of the most exciting events of the theatre season in Toronto, this contemporary mirror for our times previews from September 16, opens September 24 and runs to October 26 in Tarragon’s Mainspace.

Richard Rose, Tarragon’s Artistic Director, explains: “I attended Florian Borchmeyer’s adaptation of Henrik Ibsen’s An Enemy of the People in a production by Thomas Ostermeier at the Schaubühne Theatre, Berlin in May 2013. Their contemporary take – both in adaptation and production – spoke clearly, directly and with complexity to the current Canadian struggle of environment versus economy. With the support of Florian Borchmeyer and  Thomas Ostermeier, I am honoured that we will be able to stage a version of their compelling production.”Written in 1882, Ibsen’s parable echoes the questions of today as it grapples with how we balance our conscience and our comfort – censored scientists, environmental crises, anarchist manifestos and the pitfalls of majority rule. As Rose recalls: “Tar sands, climate change, fracking, pipelines, Walkerton, the cod and salmon fisheries, tailing ponds and ethical oil; all came to mind as I experienced this production. I knew instantly that we had to produce it.”

Tarragon’s international playwright-in-residence, Maria Milisavljevic, translates Florian Borchmeyer’s adaptation which sets the classic but timely drama in a 21st-century spa town.

The Chief Medical Officer of a small Norwegian town, Dr. Thomas Stockmann, has made a shocking discovery, but to go public with his test results will spell the end of his town’s prosperity. The people don’t know that the newly-built Baths are contaminated with industrial waste, and if the world finds out, it will send the community into economic collapse. What is in the public interest when what is good for the economy comes into conflict with what is good for the environment? Is democracy the form of government best suited to address environmental problems?

Rose has pulled together an exceptionally talented ensemble for this thrilling work. Award-winning film, television and stage actor Joe Cobden (Tarragon’s Little One, Soulpepper’s Twelve Angry Men) portrays Dr. Stockmann; Rick Roberts (2014 ACTRA Toronto Award for title role in CBC-TV movie Jack about Jack Layton;

Tarragon’s The Small Room at the Top of the Stairs, Molière, John and Beatrice) plays his brother and town councillor who is also Chairman of the Baths’ board of directors. Tom Barnett (Tarragon’s Courageous, How It Works; Theatre Passe Muraille / Mirvish national tour of The Drawer Boy), Matthew Edison (Tarragon’s The Real World?, Forests; Canadian Stage’s Amadeus, Proof) and Brandon McGibbon (Tarragon’s Forests, The Misanthrope; Broadway’s ONCE) portray the publisher, editor and reporter of the local newspaper. Richard McMillan (11 seasons at Stratford Festival; Tarragon’s After Akhmatova, Molière; four Dora Awards) is Stockmann’s father-in-law, and Tamara Podemski (first Canadian actress and first Native American to win Special Jury Prize for Acting at Sundance Film Festival, original Canadian cast of RENT then RENT on Broadway, Bruce  McDonald’s film Dance  Me  Outside) plays Stockmann’s wife.Set and costume design is by Michelle Tracey, lighting design by Jason Hand, sound design by Thomas Ryder Payne. The stage manager is Marinda de Beer.