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Ghosts

By Henrik Ibsen

HOME, 23 November 2016

Ghosts

‘Tis past, that melancholy dream.

This is one of the great Norwegian playwright’s family dramas, where long-hidden secrets come drifting to the surface with consequences hilarious or dire, depending on your state of mind.

It is like looking into a cage at a zoo, this play. The people do their best to ape freedom, disappearing outside or into different rooms, but they cannot escape, they are held captive. Everyone has made wrong choices in the past, some (not least Helen, the mother, played by Niamh Cusack) earnestly want to change but are unable to. Or they are not inclined to change, full stop. These people are mendacious, weak, hypocritical; and, to top it off, they live such joyless lives. I mean, why do they?

On the whole, this is a decent production of a passable play but, really, the people in it are so wretched. Perhaps  this is what happens to human beings when they follow Luther rather than Lucretius. They believe that duty and goodness involves self denial (as with the Pastor) and that acting on vital desires leads to dissolution and sin (ditto Oswald).

There is a claustrophobic feel to the production that is kind of compelling and encourages forensic dissection of the human beings on display: that’s what I liked best about it. The actors’ performances are fine but the behaviour is so remote, alien almost, that you cannot watch it with anything other than a wry, sadistic amusement.

Personally, I blame the Reformation.

Ghosts is showing at HOME until 3 December, further details can be found here.

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