Ghosts: Henrik Ibsen
London N1 1TA
7.30pm, mats Sat 2.30pm
Audio Described perf: Nov 16, 2.30pm, Touch Tour at 12.45pm;
Captioned perf: Oct 28 at 7.30pm and 6 Nov at 2.30pm
Runs: 1hr 30mins without interval, to 23 November
TICKETS 020 7359 4404 (24 hours)
In person: 10am-7.30pm (Mon-Sat)
Review by Carole Woddis of performance seen Oct 4, 2013:
Scrupulous, but it doesn’t quite add up. There’s an inevitable temptation when approaching Ibsen for today to take the scissors to him. He must be made relevant. Modern audiences, directors seem to think, won’t be able to cope with some of his heavier-handed symbolism.
Thus it is with Richard Eyre’s own adaptation of Ghosts, the play that in 1881 dared to talk about venereal disease, a taboo topic even now in certain circumstances. Eyre has trimmed off a good deal of fat in his 90 minutes straight through version.
It seems to pass in a flash from the moment Jack Lowden’s handsome Oswald appears in the door, the prodigal son returned to his home after living the bohemian life in Paris, casts furtive glances at the family maid Regina (transferred to the Highlands) before collapsing finally into assumed syphilitic senility.
So far so good and Tim Hatley’s beautiful, diaphanous set projecting soft light as through several layers suggests a wealth of meanings from social and geographical to metaphorical.
Indeed, Ghosts, perhaps to the anxiety of today’s directors is top heavy in metaphor.
Ibsen used the sexual legacy of Captain Alving’s profligate life as much to explore the inheritances of values and ideas as the corruption, hypocrisies and conventions of society that can create such destructive secrets within the family fold.
As the purveyor and guardian of society’s strait-laced, spiritual decorums, Eyre’s Ghosts boasts one of the finest Pastor Manders of recent times in Will Keen. Intense, weasel-faced, his body twisted in repression he makes a terrifyingly formidable foil to Lesley Manville’s rather capable Mrs Alving, a woman dying to cut loose whose face bears the scars of years of covering up her revered husband’s philandering.
But something doesn’t quite click between this Mrs Alving and her supposed rejection by Pastor Manders when, as a young woman she came to him for help and offered herself to him. You can’t quite see that happening with this particular Pastor and this particular Mrs Alving.
Too much, too, has been lopped off, as it were, between parentheses. It’s a typically scrupulous production from Eyre that curiously fails to release Ghosts inner emotional core.
Regina Engstrand: Charlene McKenna
Jacob Engstrand: Brian McCardie
Pastor Manders: Will Keen
Helene Alving: Lesley Manville
Oswald Alving: Jack Lowden
Director: Richard Eyre
Design: Tim Hatley
Lighting: Peter Mumford
Sound: John Leonard
Casting: Cara Beckinsale
Associate Designer: Andrew Edwards
Assistant Designer: Paul Tulley
Literal Translation: Charlotte Barslund
Assistant Director: Gaby Dellal
First performance of this production of Ghosts at the Almeida Theatre, Sept 26, 2013