Learn more about Matt Smith before seeing him in 'An Enemy of the People'

Matt Smith will return to the West End next year to star in Thomas Ostermeier’s bold reimagining of Henrik Ibsen's An Enemy of the People.

Marianka Swain
Marianka Swain

From Doctor Who to The Crown, and The History Boys to House of the Dragon, Matt Smith has already racked up an impressively varied list of credits on film, TV and stage. He’ll soon be adding to that with his latest West End production: an exciting revival of An Enemy of the People.

Smith will play Dr Thomas Stockmann in the thought-provoking Henrik Ibsen play, who makes a shocking discovery about the supposed healing waters in his town’s local baths. However, exposing the truth would have terrible consequences for the local economy, incur the wrath of the corrupt government, and potentially harm Stockmann’s family. What is the right thing to do?

This timely drama about truth, power, money and the environment will have a bold new production from the respected director Thomas Ostermeier, making his West End debut. It will play at London’s Duke of York’s Theatre from February 2024.

As you start planning your trip to An Enemy of the People, get acquainted with Smith’s amazing career to date.

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Matt Smith’s beginnings

The actor was born in Northampton in 1982. His original passion was for football, following in his grandfather’s footsteps (he played for Notts County), but a major back injury ended the young Smith’s dreams of going pro.

Instead, his drama teacher signed him up for shows, although Smith initially resisted, still seeing himself as a footballer and viewing acting as uncool. But he eventually joined the National Youth Theatre, which he loved, and went on to study drama and creative writing at the University of East Anglia.

After playing roles like Thomas Becket in Murder in the Cathedral for the National Youth Theatre, he scored an agent, and struck a deal with his university to graduate without attending any lectures in his final year so that he could begin his professional career.

Matt Smith on stage

Smith hit the ground running in 2004 with numerous theatre jobs, including The Master and Margarita at Lyric Hammersmith, Fresh Kills at the Royal Court, and On the Shore of the Wider World at Manchester Royal Exchange and the National Theatre.

In 2005, he joined a landmark show: Alan Bennett’s The History Boys. Smith was in the first takeover cast of a company brimming with young talent, including James Corden, Russell Tovey, Dominic Cooper, Jamie Parker, Sacha Dhawan, and Samuel Barnett.

Smith returned to the Royal Court for That Face in 2007, and then made his West End debut later in the year in the Hollywood satire Swimming with Sharks. The cast also featured Christian Slater, Arthur Darvill and Helen Baxendale. Smith stayed in the West End for the successful transfer of That Face.

He then took a hiatus from theatre to concentrate on his screen work, returning in 2013 to play Patrick Bateman in the stage adaptation of American Psycho at the Almeida Theatre. Duncan Sheik and Robert Aguirre-Sacasa’s musical, directed by Rupert Goold, also featured Jonathan Bailey, Katie Brayben, Lucie Jones and Hugh Skinner. It transferred to Broadway in 2016, but closed after 54 regular performances.

Smith did another Royal Court play in 2016, Unreachable, and most recently he reunited with his co-star in The Crown, Claire Foy, for Duncan Macmillan’s eco romance Lungs at the Old Vic, in 2019. The production was also live-streamed during lockdown.

Matt Smith on screen

Smith made his TV debut in 2006 in The Ruby in the Smoke, a BBC adaptation of the Sally Lockhart books by Philip Pullman. Billie Piper, Julie Walters, JJ Field and Hayley Atwell co-starred in the well-received period mystery drama.

That year, Smith also had a key role in the BBC political drama Party Animals, playing a researcher for the Labour Party. He then auditioned for comedy The Inbetweeners and came down to the final two for the part of Will – but didn’t get it.

Just as well, perhaps. Following a few more shows, like The Secret Diary of a Call Girl (again acting opposite Piper), he got the role that would change his life: the Eleventh Doctor in long-running sci-fi series Doctor Who. Smith made his debut in 2010, succeeding David Tennant, and stayed until 2014, when he handed on the TARDIS to Peter Capaldi.

Doctor Who significantly boosted Smith’s profile. He went on to star as writer Christopher Isherwood in the biographical drama Christopher and His Kind in 2011, and as rower Bert Bushnell in Bert and Dickie in 2012.

That run of inhabiting real-life figures continued with his most significant role to date in 2016: Prince Philip in royal drama The Crown. Smith originated the role in the series, playing the Duke of Edinburgh in the first two seasons opposite Claire Foy as Elizabeth II. He was highly praised for his detailed, thoughtful and rather dashing portrayal.

Smith’s big-screen career was taking off too. He played Mr Collins in the Jane Austen spin-off Pride and Prejudice and Zombies in 2016; took the title role in Mapplethorpe, a biographical drama about the photographer, in 2017; and played cult leader Charles Manson in 2018 film Charlie Says. He then appeared in the 2019 whistleblower drama Official Secrets and 2021 crime drama The Forgiven.

Also in 2021, Smith starred with Anya Taylor-Joy and Thomasin McKenzie in Edgar Wright’s stylised period horror film Last Night in Soho. The following year, he was in the now infamous superhero flop Morbius, playing a vampire opposite Jared Leto.

He had more luck on TV with his next critically acclaimed series, House of the Dragon – the highly anticipated Game of Thrones spin-off. Debuting in 2022, Smith stars as the cunning Prince Daemon Targaryen, who plays a key part in the tangled succession wars on the show.

What can we expect from An Enemy of the People?

It’s definitely an event to see Matt Smith back on a West End stage. We can expect him to bring that same commitment and intensity to this demanding lead role, and in a play with plenty to say about our current world.

Thomas Ostermeier’s radical new version of Ibsen’s play was originally seen at Schaubühne Berlin; this is the first time that the great director has brought his work to a British stage. Expect a searing contemporary take which draws parallels with global warming and other existential threats.

Jessica Brown Findlay (Katharina Stockmann), Priyanga Burford (Aslaksen), Zachary Hart (Billing), Paul Hilton (Peter Stockmann), Nigel Lindsay (Morten Kiil), and Shubham Saraf (Hovstad) will join Smith in Ostermeier's production.

Book An Enemy of the People tickets on London Theatre now.

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