‘Ghosts’ is a terrific classic by Henrik Ibsen, the son of a Norwegian theatre director. Written in 1881, the play was a scornful attack on the duplicity and morals of the upper class. King Olaf stated his objections directly to an unrepentant Ibsen. Not surprisingly, at its premiere the play was described by the critics as ‘an open drain’, ‘a foul and filthy concoction’ and ‘nauseating and menacing’ - all guaranteed house fillers.
The translation of the name to ‘Ghosts’ upset Ibsen, who said that the Norwegian title ‘Gengangere’ should be the ‘Returners’ or ‘the ones who keep turning up’.
This superb presentation by Class Act Theatre is playing at The Studio, Subiaco Arts Centre, Hamersley Road, Subiaco until Saturday 3rd November. All evening shows are at 7.30 pm, with one Saturday matinee on the 3rd November at 2.00 pm.
In a mansion at the side of a fjord near the town of Rosenvold, the young maid, Regina (Whitney Richards) is setting the dinner table when her estranged father, Engstrand (David Meadows) a rough and uncouth carpenter comes in and announces that he wants her to come and live with him again. Since being a young child, Regina has been happily living in the servant’s quarters of the Alving’s house and has certainly no desire to go to her widower father’s slum dwelling.
Ten years after his death, Helene Alving (Angelique Malcolm) is now dedicating an orphanage to the memory of her husband, the highly esteemed Captain Alving. Although in the public eye Alving was a respected member of society, he was in fact a drunken, depraved philanderer, and gave poor Helene a miserable existence.
The next caller is a family friend, the sanctimonious Pastor Manders (Graham Mitchell), who without knowing the full facts had over the years, has counselled Helene advising her to stay with her husband, as the community would without doubt take the man’s side. When Helene reveals to the Pastor her husband’s dark side, and that her philanthropy is really to empty the family coffers, thus ensuring is nothing left for her sickly, artist son, Oswald (Andrew Southern) a self-indulgent waster and chip off the old block, who has just returned from living overseas.
This family has many secrets ready to surface.
I have seen several versions of this play, but under the direction of Stephen Lee this easily the best production. The brilliant acting showed the full richness of Ibsen’s characters, traits that I had never noticed before suddenly became clear. Regine’s desire to find a man to love and to love her in return. Manders started as a manipulating bible-thumping puritan, before changing to a grovelling, confused and guilt-ridden advisor. There are passages of Manders’ script that would bring tears to Julia Gillard. Oswald returned from living abroad as an arrogant, decadent and totally unrepentant wastrel. Helene was a ‘real’ mother, fussing and fawning over her child. Finally Jacob Engstrand brought humour and relief to the heavier storyline as he tried to raise funds for his enterprise. The acting standard, even though this was a preview night, was outstanding. The chemistry and pace were perfect.
Steve Warren’s lighting was excellent. Looking at a dimly lit set can be very tiring, but Steve created the warm glow of the oil lamp and candle with enough intensity to create the effect without discomfort. He subtly - almost imperceptibly - raised and lowered the lighting level with the mood of the script, thus giving an extra depth.
This is a wonderful production, and the large party of students in the audience were so pleased to have seen such a sensitive and subtle version of the play, as it brought the characters of their school text to life. Highly recommended.
HIVE (Her Infinite Variety Ensemble) presents
By April De Angelis, by arrangement with Origin Theatrical on behalf of Samuel French, Ltd.
Directed by Helen Doig
Starring Rhoda Lopez as Nell Gwyn and Angelique Malcolm as Mary Betterton, Claire Munday as Doll Common, Tiffany Barton as Elizabeth Farley and Summer Williams as Rebecca Marshall