Henrik Ibsen’s Ghosts is a historical melodrama, written in 188, which tackles some issues that were highly taboo at the time of writing.
Ghosts portrays a closed household community with local Pastor Manders an integral and influential part of the Alving estate. It was a devout religious world then with the Catholic and Lutheran churches very prominent.
The main character Mrs Helene Alving keeps a lot of secrets. She has unconditional love for her son Oswald, so much so she sacrifices his childhood and sends him away because she doesn’t want him learning the habits of his father, who liked to have affairs and party. There’s love in many forms – family love, romantic love and incestuous love.
It’s a dialogue driven play with intense discussions about social fabric, convention, morality, ideals, motherly and wifely duties using some wonderful old fashioned literary language that give us a glimpse into the world of the 19th Century. The views about marriage and the position of women are antiquated but then there are a lot of elements outside of what the Church considered a normal marriage; syphilis, incest, domestic violence and debauchery. That’s what made the play so scandalous.
Director Eamon Flack has done a delightful job in bringing this masterpiece alive. This production isn’t set in 1881 but rather set in a world where nothing has changed since 1881.
“I’ve tried to find ways for the play to feel like the past while still talking directly to us…This adaptation is an attempt to come up with a fairly direct rendering of Ibsen’s play into a language that makes sense to us but still retains the feeling of the past – which still pulls us into the murky otherworld of Ibsen’s 1881,” said Flack.
Until Oct 22. Belvoir (Upstairs Theatre), 8 & 25 Belvoir St, Surry Hills. $37-$72. Tickets & Info: www.belvoir.com.au or Ph. (02) 9699 3444
Reviewed by Mel Somerville.