Evans, speaking at a press conference today, scheduled the “great civic play” as a timely opener because of its “dynamic between political accountability and expediency”. It will run from 17 February to 20 March 2010 (previews form 11 February), “just before a general election”.
In An Enemy of the People, it’s boom town in a spa town, where visitor numbers are higher than ever and the pay-off is huge. But Dr. Tomas Stockmann 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?
Evans is using the Christopher Hampton version of Ibsen’s play which, coincidentally, Trevor Nunn first directed as the opening production of his tenure as artistic director of the National Theatre in 1997. This was when Ian McKellen starred as Stockmann, the part now being taken by Sher, who will be supported in the 53-strong production by the largest chorus of local residents ever seen on the Crucible stage.
Speaking today, Evans said Antony Sher was “number one my list” to star. He said “it will be fantastic to have a knight of the realm” to open his first season and the first season in the new theatre, he said. An actor whose multi award-winning credits include Richard III, Stanley and Torch Song Trilogy, Sher has most recently been seen on stage in The Tempest, Kean, Othello and Primo, the one-man play which he also wrote.
The large-scale production of An Enemy of the People will mark a major step up for Evans, who only started directing five years ago and. To date, he has mounted mainly small-scale productions, including two Peter Gill plays at the Young Vic and the Guildhall School of Music and Drama. “I felt that I should start with a bang” and “offer myself up” immediately, he said today.
Other highlights of Evans’ opening season announced today include:
In the Crucible
In the Studio
Speaking about the programme, Evans explained: “In choosing the plays for the opening season, I’ve concentrated on two guiding principles: first, I wanted to offer a variety of work (including classics, world premieres, adaptations and theatre for young people), and secondly, I wanted to present plays that speak directly to the city of Sheffield and the region at this moment in time.”
Further ahead, though details are still under wraps, Evans promised that a major musical revival, as well as Shakespeare, will be on offer in late 2010, while 2011 will see a festival across Sheffield’s three auditoria – the next-door Lyceum as well as the Crucible and Studio – dedicated to one playwright and a formative period in their career.
The new artistic director also said that he will “definitely not stop acting” himself and promised that “I will act on our stages” within the next two years. He also plans to programme more in-house work in the Lyceum, traditionally reserved for visiting musical, dance and opera productions, and to reinstitute Sheffield’s youth theatre programme.