'Public Enemy' review

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by Prabhu Silvam

Written in 1882 by acclaimed Norwegian playwright Henrik Ibsen, “An Enemy Of The People” struck at the hearts and minds of common folk by overtly acknowledging themes of oppression, desolation and persecution of the human kind – a rarity in an era known for its compliance and servile mentality towards royalty.

 Fast-forward a 130 years; Henrik Ibsen’s visionary play remains as relevant and thought provoking as ever. Renamed and revamped under the title of  “Public Enemy”, Wild Rice’s take on the literary classic sees a whole new spin to an age-old story of the mind-numbing ruthlessness of oppression.

Directed by theatre thespian Glen Goei, the story culminates around a prolific scientist who makes a horrifying discovery that the spas in his country have become cesspools of contaminated bacteria, which threaten to harm the lives of people who patronize or live around the areas of contamination. With no time to waste, he tries to convince his brother, the country’s Prime Minister that no stone should be left unturned in the quest to warn the general public of the impending doom. However, in an unethical turn of events, he is faced with an unprecedented wave of resistance and vilification by the powers-that-be who have financial and political interests at heart, leaving the lives of innocent people up to chance – in a megalomaniac inspired feat.

The Orwellian themed power struggle during the entirety of the play is further emphasized in the cold, metal-framed sets, which sleekly and eye-catchingly shift to accommodate each new scene. Coupled with the diabolical and at times suspenseful riffs of background music, the overall mood and dynamics of the play is amplified by the vigor and drive of the cast.

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