Thurs 21st February - Sat 23rd February & Mon 25th February - Sat 2nd March 1991
Directed by Jacquie Penrose
What is a woman to do? Seek love and self-fulfilment by abandoning a rotten husband, or obey society's rules and devote herself to her family? Mrs Alving, in Ibsen's classic drama, follows the call of duty, only to find the cost in human terms is cruelly high. Poignant, laughable, and very moving, 'Ghosts' touches nerves that are as sensitive today as they were a century ago.
'Ghosts' was originally written in 1881 (in Danish), first staged in 1882, and is a scathing commentary on 19th century morality. It was first performed in 1891 in England it also deals with the burdens of duty.
The plot follows Mrs Helene Alving as she is about to dedicate an orphanage, built in the memory of her dead husband, Captain Alving. She reveals to her spiritual adviser, Pastor Manders, that she has hidden how much of a sham her marriage, was, and has built the orphanage to deplete her husband's wealth so that their son, Oswald, might not inherit it. It seems that Pastor Manders had previously advised her to return to her husband despite his philandering. She followed his advice in the belief that her love for her husband would eventually reform him, however her husband's infidelity continued until his death. Mrs. Alving also chose not to leave him for fear of being shunned by her society. During the play she discovers that her son Oswald (whom she had sent away so that he would not be corrupted by his father) is suffering from syphilis, and (worse) has fallen in love with Regina Engstrand, Mrs. Alving's maid, who is revealed to be an illegitimate daughter of Captain Alving, and thereby Oswald's own half-sister. The play concludes with Mrs. Alving having to decide whether or not to help her son to die in accordance with his wishes. Her choice is left unknown.
This play was staged at Havant Arts Centre, East Street Havant - Bench Theatre's home since 1977.
|Mrs Alving||Ingrid Corrigan|
|Pastor Manders||John Corelli|
|Oswald Alving||Alan Jenkins|
|Regina Engstrand||Lisa Burrows|
|Stage Manager||Aislinn D'Souza|
|Lights and Sound||Simon Norton|
|Set Design||David Penrose|
|Set Construction||David Hemsley-Brown|
A production of 'Ghosts' is a difficult undertaking from several points of view. The play comes trailing clouds of reputation: it's a once-scandalous play fit only for the museum - Ibsen is a gloomy writer isn't he - audiences will stay away in droves. Worse - especially for an amateur company - it has a long history of Great Performances behind it. And all that before you even get to the problems of interpretation. But having side-stepped all that baggage, the play reveals itself as astonishingly fresh. A century after Ibsen's great cry of anger against the dead weight of convention - after a century of reform and liberation - Mrs Alving's dilemma remains painfully real today: Should she put the needs of husband and child ahead of her own?
Duty and convention - time-honoured ghosts - say yes. Mrs Alving makes heroic efforts to free herself from their dead hand but she cannot, and both she and her child are destroyed. A gloomy conclusion certainly. And Oswald's syphilis, the metaphor that Ibsen has chosen to illustrate how the misdeeds of one generation (no matter how well disguised by respectability) will be visited on the next, may seem a little old-fashioned and lurid. (And yet... in our own day there are scourges hidden away in the nicest families, handed from generation to generation). But it is not all gloom; Ibsen shows us how laughable high-minded righteousness can be except when it has such awful consequences.
And will audiences stay away in droves? Perhaps such an 'old fashioned' play is not everyone's cup of tea, it seems. It would be nice to think that the play was out of date, that Ibsen's disgust in the face of cruelty of closed minds was no longer relevant. Sadly that is not the case; his ghosts, a hundred years older but not much wiser, still find plenty of darkness in which to flourish.
Many actors approach a performance of Ibsen's 'Ghosts' with trepidation - and the Bench Theatre at Havant appeared to be no different. The programme notes did not bode well, with Director, Jacquie Penrose warning of the burdens inherent in such productions. But the company gave an impressive interpretation of the play, which deals with the burdens of duty.
Ingrid Corrigan was masterful as the central character Mrs Alving, who is torn between her own needs and those which society places on her. John Corelli made the part of the self-important Pastor Manders his own, while Alan Jenkins caught the audience's sympathy with a convincing performance of a man at the end of his tether. Ghosts is at Havant Old Town Hall Arts Centre until March 2.
The News, 22nd February 1991