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Suburbia's Enemy of the People warns against neoliberalism

Enemy of the People is the summer performance of Theatre group Suburbia, directed by Albert Lubbers. The play taps into current events of corrupt bankers, environmental scandals and government officials covering up whistleblowing issues. This strong performance is sharp in tone, polemical and with vicious humour. Better than in previous Suburbia performances, the familiar dynamic acting fits nicely into the theatrical space. This time, that space is the big open barn at Stadslandgoed de Kemphaan.

In Hendrik Ibsen's socio-political play Enemy of the People quirky doctor Thomas Stockmann uncovers that the spring water at spa Aquarein has been poisoned. For his journalist friends (Hovstad and Billing), this is hot material to publish. However, Peter's brother, alderman and his employer, puts a stop to it: it would be catastrophic for the town's revenue. Katherina, Thomas's wife, supports him in his idealism, but at the same time cheats on him. Her scrupulous father Morton provides the end in this joust. For all the characters in this political drama, self-interest is paramount.

The interior of couple Stockmann and their baby looks disorderly in Suburbia's performance. In the crowded living kitchen, there is everything from children's toys to musical instruments. Thomas, convinced he is right, does not realise what he is causing with his discovery of poison in the spring water. Xander van Vledder plays an obsessed Thomas. It takes a long time for us to get used to his physical play and his vehemence in the conflict situations he has with his brother.

Kissing parties

Actor Justus van Dillen, on the other hand, shows more nuance as the tense lawman. His nervousness is already palpable as he drives his car into the yard. The bubbly Hanne Arendzen has too small a role as Katherina. The why of her making out with Hovstad is not made clear. Even the players' sudden joint music-making or soloing, however funny or beautiful it is, adds little. Then we'd rather watch Ad Knippels playing wonderfully caricatured father Morton. And Titus Boonstra who cleverly manages to portray a slippery Aslaken (an editor chief with a double agenda). Journalist Billing, played by Sebas Berman, gets no further than a declarer.

When Thomas has antagonised his brother and the media, he convenes a public participation evening. The audience plays the role of listeners. Thomas' speech is a thrilling highlight of this performance. Now you understand his palpable restlessness. He links to current affairs. He does not take a black-and-white stance, but warns us that we live in a neoliberal society in which the political elite offers false solutions with referendums, that we have been commodified.

But Thomas is becoming a loser. His chime is played out. In an insanely designed splendour scene, an imaginary stone flies across the room. The desperation is visible. Then Morton comes up with a Faustian solution. The question is: would you choose it too?

Good to know
Theatre group Suburbia's summer performance Enemy of the people by Henrik Ibsen can be seen from 15 June to 23 July 2016 at Stadslandgoed de Kemphaan, Almere. Information.

Rudolf Hunnik

Rudolf Hunnik is a cultural journalist, trainer and film programmer. For more information visit www.diversityathome.nlView Author posts

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