11/05/2017 - 20/04/2017
Extraordinarily outspoken for its time, Ghosts was rejected by the late 19th century establishment. This was hardly surprising as it was that society’s ideas and morals that Ibsen was questioning. Now it is regarded as one of his finest works but it has lost none of the power of its message, the drama in its relationships, or the challenges it places before the audience.
Helene Alving Terry MacTavish
Oswald Alving Reuben Hilder
Pastor Manders Emmett Hardie
Regina Engstrand Kimberly Buchan
Jacob Engstrand Nigel Ensor
Production Manager Keith Scott
Stage Manager Thomas Makinson
Sound and Lighting Craig Storey
Costumes Keith Scott, Terry MacTavish, Rachael McCann, Diana Struthers
Short, sharp play of love, duty and deceit
Review by Helen Watson White 23rd May 2017
Ibsen’s classic play presents a shocking story that scandalized its audience in 1882. Widow Helene Alving tells her pastor how she suffered throughout her marriage to a philanderer unreformed. When she deserted him, Pastor Manders urged her to return. For Helene, however, and for her household in a remote Norwegian village, there are unforeseen consequences of Alving’s debauchery.
There is no softness about this text, which is like a sword cutting through the thicket of moral/religious strictures surrounding the society of its time. Adapter Richard Eyre made a short play even shorter, sharply focussing its themes of love, duty and deceit.
Director Louise Petherbridge assists the actors in their double task: they are conveying – very convincingly – a group of people who are themselves acting a part. They all have secrets, their guardedness sometimes self-protection, sometimes hypocrisy. But the ‘sins of the fathers’ will out, and a succession of disclosures punctuates the play like a series of well-placed landmines.
Terry MacTavish is magnificent as the widow Helene, at first under the illusion she can control the situation she is in, finances and all. Emmett Hardie makes a stiff-necked Pastor Manders, his bearing speaking volumes about the effort of keeping his dignity.
Kimberly Buchan gives a feisty performance as the maid Regina Engstradt disowning her (supposed) father Jacob, played equally strongly by Nigel Ensor. And Reuben Hilder, as Helene’s alienated artist son Oswald, brings to this knot of relationships the unseen knife that cuts through tenuous ties.
The Globe has furnished the play with excellent set and costumes, assisted by an unusually large crew headed by production manager Keith Scott. Together they explore in a small space and tight time-frame the Alvings’ search for a freedom both longed-for and unattainable.
Copyright © belongs to the reviewer
Ibsen still has power to shock
Review by Barbara Frame 15th May 2017
In 1891, public performances of Henrik Ibsen’s Ghosts were prohibited in England, but critics who saw a private production described the play as “revoltingly suggestive and blasphemous”, “abominable”, “a dirty deed done publicly”, and more.
Societal attitudes have since altered, but Ghosts still has the power to shock. [More]
Copyright © belongs to the reviewer
Talent shines through the tragic darkness
Review by Emer Lyons 13th May 2017
The political activist Emma Goldman wrote of Ghosts: “… thundering indictment of our moral cancers, our social poisons, our hideous crimes against unborn and born victims.”
135 years on from its original production, the Globe theatre presents Richard Eyre’s adaptation of Ibsen’s Ghosts. Ibsen originally wrote the play in Danish, with the title Gengangere. The Norwegian word is “Gjengangere”, which can be literally translated as “again walkers”, or “ones who return,” or “revenants”.
Ghosts return again and again to walk among the characters through the cowardice of memory, as Helene, Jacob and the Pastor preserve the false memory of Oswald’s father, Captain Alving, and Regina’s mother, Johanna. Most predominately Captain Alving, who is momentarily epitomised by Oswald as he first appears on stage in the doorway. On the threshold of his entrance into the play Oswald stands as a liminal character, betwixt and between life and death, between joy and despair.
Louise Petherbridge does an excellent job of illuminating the central themes of light and darkness and the tragedy of inherited flaws which are further exalted under the artful eye of Craig Storey’s lighting design. The lighting excels in the confessional moments as the characters indulge in the darkness of recollection, allowing the inheritance of loss to perpetuate as the older generations (Helene, Jacob and the Pastor) hand down beliefs and customs so that the younger generation (Oswald and Regina) can take part in their surrounding culture and contribute to its perpetuation.
Ibsen shows how principles degenerate until they destroy the individual, destroying the joy of life. This lack of joy, of hope, of sunlight, leads Oswald to question in his final moments, “Where is the sun?”
The five characters are played with poise and skill by this fine cast of actors. Kimberly Buchan holds Regina Engstrand with a dignified grace, giving her the confidence to know her own mind besides the disappointments life has afforded her.
Nigel Ensor plays her demonised father, Jacob Engstrand, who straddles moral corruption and ethical honesty with ease. Nigel’s portrayal is at all times convincing and often funny.
Pastor Manders is played with a deliberately fumbling and nervous air by Emmett Hardie, highlighting the lack of certainty, of self, integral to the Pastor who tells Helene in his opening scene on stage that one must, “rely on the views of others.”
Reuben Hilder plays Oswald Alving, embodying the tormented creative intellectual that has been left bitter and frustrated by society and by family.
Terry MacTavish captivates as Helene Alving, her ability to subtly transform from emotion to emotion is carefully measured and utterly riveting.
The set is awash in regal: rich reds and greens, dark luxurious wood, paisley patterned rugs, decorative wallpaper, elaborate lamps. Even though it is said that Ibsen’s use of the actual stage space never involved needless background or decor, the set does reflect the sketches of Edvard Munch from the early 1900s. Especially the stage background, which is an almost perfect replica, save the lattice of white wood placed to denote window panes. This is a clever addition that makes the room like a trap. The characters have to confess; indulge in their darkness before there will be any hope of dawn sunlight.
The costuming is impeccable, utilising overcoats to bring the outside in so that we as an audience are made aware of a world outside of the room we are encapsulated in. The orphanage fire signifies a rite of passage that takes the characters from our view to encounter, one would hope, a purification ritual but not in Ghosts. This play inhabits the shadows more comfortably than the spotlight.
This production shows the ability of the Globe theatre to produce professional level performances with thanks to the community of volunteers that work tirelessly for the love of theatre. Everything from the directing to the acting to the costumes to the front of house deserves recognition and support.
As I leave Ghosts this night, I have a feeling of exuberance because of this show of talent, despite the tragic hopelessness of the final scene. In the words of William Shakespeare: “And as the morning steal upon the night, melting the darkness…”
Copyright © belongs to the reviewer