Theatre review: Ghosts

Posted on: 03 March 2010 by Mark O'haire

Laurence Green reviews the powerful new production of Ghosts at the Duchess Theatre.

The sins of the past come back to not only haunt but also destroy the present in Ibsen’s gripping, classic tale of hope in the face of infidelity and deceit in Ghosts, revived in a powerful new production by Iain Glen at the Duchess Theatre.

Controversy and hidden pasts are suddenly and painfully exposed as wealthy widow Mrs Alving prepares to open a new orphanage in memory of her seemingly beloved husband. Her treasured son Oswald’s return from Paris and her relationship with old friend Pastor Manders are no longer the source of joy they once were, as secrets are turned into frightening and desperate reality. Indeed when she realises her son is very sick with an incurable form of syphilis, she realises the unsavouray secrets of Captain Alving’s life did not die with him but have been passed on to the younger generation, blighting Oswald’s hope for a life and love of his own.

Frank McGuinness’s new translation is both direct and accessible and seems particularly relevant in our own sexually permissive times with STDs sharply on the rise. Actually this harrowing drama about hypocrisy and the price paid for keeping up appearances in a judgemental bourgeois society begins on a quiet note but gradually builds up the tension leading to an explosive and moving second act when secrets are revealed and lives are destroyed.

Director Iain Glen who also plays Pastor Manders elicits strong performances from his well chosen cast, most notably Lesley Sharp as the enslaved free-spirit which Mrs Alving personifies, Harry Treadaway whose suffering is almost palpable as Oswald, Jessica Raine as Regine Engstrand, Mrs Alving’s servant with whom Oswald is besotted, and Malcolm Storry as Engstrand, a carpenter, who claims his sailors’ Bordello will be a worthy memorial to Captain Alving.

This in short is a play about parents and children which, in this fine production, continues to shock by its emotional intensity.

By Laurence Green

Where: Duchess Theatre

When: plays until 15 May

Box Office: 0844 412 4659

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