The first was for Antony Sher and his massive 60-strong company (bolstered by an army of community players) for An Enemy of the People after a spirited three-hour performance. The second came during the post-show party and speeches with the introduction of Sheffield’s new boss, actor-turned-artistic director Daniel Evans, who also launched his inaugural season with Enemy, which he himself helmed.
If the wildly enthusiastic applause and shouts of approval weren’t indication enough, the mere presence of so many of Theatreland’s great and good, who travelled from all corners of the country to attend last night, paid testament to Evans’ huge popularity within the profession.
Amongst the actors, directors, playwrights and others in attendance were: John Simm (who will giving Sheffield his Hamlet in September), Henry Goodman, Gregory Doran, Jamie Glover, Laura Wade, Jonathan Church, Stephen Unwin, Ian Brown, Che Walker, Julie Legrand, Malcolm Sinclair, Peter Gill, Adam Cooper, Alisdair Harvey, Jonathan Munby, Sinead Matthews, Danny Webb, Timothy West and Prunella Scales, Dawn Walton, Chris New, Gemma Bodinetz and Evans’ associate Paul Miller.
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Speaking to the crowd, Evans said that he was delighted to finally be reopening the Crucible and noted that “there is a genuinely meaningful and reciprocal relationship between the theatre and the city”. He said he felt lucky “to have a city like Sheffield” where the people feel so “passionately” about their theatre. “I feel hugely excited about the future of Sheffield Theatres,” he concluded.
Also speaking at the reopening, Sheffield Theatres’ chief executive Dan Bates, himself only four months in the job, shared the crowd’s affection for his artistic director by praising Evans’ “energy, enthusiasm, attention to details and great sense of fun. It’s a joy to come to work,” he said.
In An Enemy of the People, Ibsen’s 1882 classic in a version by Christopher Hampton, it’s boom town in a spa town, where visitor numbers are higher than ever and the pay-off is huge. In Evans’ revival, Antony Sher stars as Dr Tomas Stockmann, who knows the toxic secret underlying the town’s newfound wealth. If he’s concerned for the health of the people, how can he be their enemy?
The cast also features John Shrapnel, Lucy Cohu, Susannah Fielding, Trystan Gravelle, Phillip Joseph and Chook Sibtain. The production is designed by Ben Stones, with lighting by Tim Mitchell and music and sound by Ben and Max Ringham. It continues until 20 March 2010 (previews form 11 February).
The Crucible season then continues with: a revival of Sam Shepard’s True West (13 May-5 June); the world premiere of Alice, Laura Wade’s response to Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland (17 June-24 July); and further ahead, John Simm’s Hamlet directed by associate Paul Miller in September. Meanwhile, in the Crucible Studio, Evans’ first season includes Stephanie Street’s new verbatim drama about life as a British Muslim woman, Sisters (11-27 March), Roy Williams’ children’s play There’s Only One Wayne Matthews, and the English regional premiere of Polly Stenham’s That Face (1-24 July), directed by associate Richard Wilson.