Ibsen with an Indian flavour

 Date:04/04/2006 - 27/05/2006
 Type:Culture, Ibsen Year

To mark the centenary of Ibsen’s death, Asian-led theatre company Tara Arts transports 'An Enemy of the People' to a setting in British India and goes on tour with the play across the UK.

Written in 1882, 'An Enemy of the People' continued Ibsen’s obsession with exploring the dilemmas of modern urban society. Its main character Dr Stockman, a medical officer of the local baths, discovers problems with his town’s water supply. Determined to safeguard the health of local citizens, he soon finds himself pitted against the civic need for tourist income and ponders the power, if any, of a lone dissenting voice.

Tara Arts adapts the play to late-19th century British India, where the all-pervasive but often unseen power of the District Commissioner conditioned public life of Indian towns and cities. A town in north India in the 1880s is not only a popular pilgrimage centre but also an experiment by the British administration in Indian civic rule. Dr Somnath, medical officer of the town, discovers its famous waters are polluted. He attempts to safeguard the health of local citizens and pilgrims alike by proposing a radical solution. But his brother, Prem Somnath, the British-appointed mayor of the town, is opposed to the idea.

The local press and small business interests initially support the Doctor in his fight with his brother - until the Mayor reminds them of the consequences of following the Doctor’s recommendations. The pilgrims who flock to the town are essential to the economy of the town. It becomes clear that Dr Somnath’s challenge is not only to the notion of holy water but also to the vested local financial and political interests – the mayor, the businessmen, the press.

"Ibsen wrote 'An Enemy of the People' in 1882, setting it in a small town in Norway. I have chosen to adapt his play to the same period but in a small town nine thousand miles away, in British India. The main themes of the play - the manipulative power of the media, the insidious nature of the repression of new ideas in modern society, the price of truth – seem to me as relevant in British India as they were in 19th century Norway, or, indeed, 21st century Britain," says the play's director Jatinder Verma.

Founded in 1977, Tara Arts was the first Asian-led theatre company in Britain. Tara’s mission is to make connections between cultures through theatre. The company tours vibrant adaptations of European and Asian classics, develops new writing and brings the great stories of the world to children in junior schools.

Throughout the 1980s the company developed its distinctive, ‘Binglish’ style of theatre, drawing on an eclectic mix of traditional Asian performance techniques and applying them to the European cannon. This exploration culminated in Tartuffe (1990), The Little Clay Cart (1991) and Cyrano (1995), co-productions with the National Theatre.

The late-1990s saw the company embark on a major project, developing a trilogy of plays which examined migration and transformation in the 20th century. Journey to the West (2002) looked at the experience of forced migration through the eyes of those who had lived it, and gave audiences at each of the day-long events an unforgettable experience.

Based in South London, and touring annually to England, Scotland and Wales, the company’s tours have also taken it as far a field as the Netherlands, Ireland, France, Belgium, Spain, Turkey, Egypt, Hong Kong, Singapore, Japan and Australia.

4 - 5 April (7.30pm)
Oldham Coliseum

Fairbottom Street
Oldham OL1 3SW
0161 624 2829

7 - 8 April (7.30pm)
Peepul Centre

Orchardson Avenue
Leicester LE4 6DP
0116 266 7673

25 April to 29 April (7.30pm)
The Citz, Glasgow

Citizerns Theatre
Glasgow G5 9DS
0141 429 0022

3 May to 6 May (7.45pm)
Lichfield Garrick

Castle Dyke
Lichfield WS13 6HR
01543 412121

16 May (7.30pm)
Queen's Hall, Hexham

Beaumont Street
Hexham NE46 3LS
01434 652 477

18 May (7.30pm)
Darlington Arts Centre

Vane Terrace
Darlington DL3 7AX
01325 486 555

19 May to 20 May (8pm)
Brewery Arts Centre, Kendal

Kendal LA9 4HE
01539 725133

23 May to 27 May 2006 (7.30pm)
(+ 2pm on 24th and 27th May)
Lighthouse Poole

21 Kingland Road
Poole BH15 1UG
08700 668701

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Asian-led theatre company Tara Arts takes Ibsen's 'An Enemy of the People' on tour across the UK in April and May