AT Lincoln last week I saw the British stage premiere of Arthur Miller's adaptation of Ibsen's An Enemy of the People (Theatre Royal, Lincoln). A sane and tonic evening: Mr. Miller has sharpened Ibsen, curtailed and compressed" him, slimming the overweight Archer to fighting shape. Its theme, that of the lifelong democrat who begins to doubt the infallibility of the majority, is always topical; and the approving shouts at curtain-fall demonstrated that Ibsen, aided by Miller and John Hale's gripping production, had made his point to the contemporary hilt. A fuzzed and. woolly Daguerreotype had been brought into' brilliant three-dimensional focus. From an admirable repertory company I single out Brian Hawksley, who exposed the falsehood of the mayor's arguments without making the man himself a villain. George Coulouris, the visiting star, was an ideal Stockmann, bursting with enthusiasm and never for an instant priggish. Not since "Citizen Kane" has this burly actor hit so full a stride. In the early passages he trod warily, approaching the play with genial mistrust as if at any moment it might rush him; and towards the end he tended to address his family as if it were a specially convened public meeting. But the spirit of the part was there all the way, the reckless exuberance of a man whose last care is for what the world thinks. This hare-brained, uncalculating benevolence is exactly what the role needs; and what, in my memory, it has never got. The Royal Court must bring the play to London (with Messrs. Coulouris, Hawksley and Hale) as soon as possible.




Ibsen plus Arthur Miller


With their production of "An Enemy of the People" by Arthur Miller after Henrik Ibsen, the Lincoln Theatre Royal players put themselves well and truly on the map. This first British showing would be a remarkable landfall for any repertory company. For a quite new one, which John Hale has had to skipper on the hard tack of weekly "rep", it must feel like setting out for Hull and finding you have made Oslo by way of New York. These adventurous young players have indeed travelled far from their parish pump. They have signed on George Coulouris to take the main parts, and his vehemence seems to run through the whole company like an inspiration or a mutiny. The others, in particular Brian Hawksley's hollow trunk of civic uprightness as the brother, live up to this passionate and notably unpious Dr Stockmann.

Miller's version has more fidelity than we might have expected. What it does is release the language of the play from the cramping we are used to - or as you might say, clear the ship of barnacles. Any version of such a play as this - and it could be argued that every new production, if it is to mean anything at all, must be an "adaptation" - has to start by deciding at what point it is going to try and hit us, where can it hurt most if it can still hurt at all? The "damned compact LIberal maJority" lands no body-blow, nor at this date are we going to be much shaken by the discovery that righteousness often costs more than people are prepared to pay. And as for the verdict- "the strong must learn to be lonely," as Miller neatly and faithfully puts it - that is written in a language that none of us dares to understand to-day. What this revival has to do, to succeed, is convince us that we must relearn that language.

Against all expectation that is just what it does. There are plenty of Dr Stockmanns about, Mr Coulouris excitingly alleged in his curtain speech. What the version succeeds is making us feel that if there aren't there ought to be. Ibsen's hot rage at the cowardice and depravity of respectable mankind - it is this that Miller has found the bellows to rekindle. Thus from America, by way of Lincoln, he reintroduces us to the full impact of this majestic, searing Scandinavian who still has so much to say to us.