by Henrik Ibsen translated by Frank McGuinness.
Duchess Theatre Catherine Street WC2B 5LA To 15 May 2010.
Mon-Sat 7.30pm Mat Wed & Sat 2.30pm.
Runs 2hr 10min One interval.
TICKETS: 0870 154 4040.
Review: Carole Woddis 24 February.
A play that can still send shivers down the spine.
What makes a classic? It must the ability for different generations to feel they have a particular purchase on a play, that it is telling them something so relevant it could have been written yesterday.
Such is Ghosts. In Iain Glen’s directorial debut of Ibsen’s 1881 play – Glen both directs and plays Pastor Manders, the uptight Lutheran minister – you can hear the collective intake of breath as Mrs Alving’s son, Oswald, terminal with inherited syphilis asks his mother, when the moment comes, to kill him.
“This can’t be happening to me,” mutters Lesley Sharp’s mother, echoing, if we could have overheard them, the reaction of recent mothers prosecuted for the `mercy killing’ of their children. Frank McGuinness’ 2007 translation new-mints it for today with shocking immediacy.
All the same, straight drama in the West End isn’t having an easy time. Ghosts, produced by Thelma Holt and Nica Burns is only scheduled for a short run but is already offering discounted tickets.
A shame because Glen’s production, given an unusually light, airy setting by Stephen Brimson Lewis, is a thoroughly honourable account. True, it doesn’t give us any particularly new insights but it delivers where it should, with vigour and intelligence.
If ever there was a play showing the long arm of the past and sins of the father being visited on the next generation it is Ghosts. It is also, par exemplar, the demolisher of the myth of family values.
As Mrs Alving, Lesley Sharp is lightweight but a convincing mixture of dutiful wife and struggling feminist. Her whole bearing reflects a lifetime of covering up. Beside her, Glen’s Ulster spoken Pastor Manders smiles wanly but breathes fire and brimstone.
As the doomed Oswald, Harry Treadaway cuts a suitably twitchy, desperate figure whilst Malcolm Storry’s Engstrand conveys a rugged kind of manipulative opportunism. Jessica Raine as Regine, Mrs Alving’s maid, though is the performance to watch. Wary, pert, sly, the originality this young actress brings to everything she does marks her out as something very special indeed.
Engstrand: Malcolm Storry.
Regine: Jessica Raine.
Pastor Manders: Iain Glen.
Mrs Helene alving: Lesley Sharp.
Oswald Alving: Harry Treadaway.
Director: Iain Glen.
Designer: Stephen Brimson Lewis.
Lighting: Oliver Fenwick.
Sound/Music: Richard Hammarton.
Associate director: Amelia Sears.