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It's a ghost of a play

PUBLISHED: 19:30 14 February 2002 | UPDATED: 11:21 03 March 2010

Ghosts, English Touring Theatre at the New Wolsey, until Friday.



FAMILY life is not as pure as it should be. Not once during this stylish, hard-hitting production of Ibsen's arguably greatest play could you disagree with this wistful remark by the pompous Pastor Manders.

Ghosts, English Touring Theatre at the New Wolsey, until Friday.

FAMILY life is not as pure as it should be. Not once during this stylish, hard-hitting production of Ibsen's arguably greatest play could you disagree with this wistful remark by the pompous Pastor Manders.

Mrs Alving has told this buffoon of her time crushed as the dutiful wife of a philandering husband. But her subsequent independence as a widow and as the loving mother to her son, is to completely destroy her.

When he first wrote it, the Danish playwright planted theatrical dynamite on the stage in this withering review of the moral and physical toxins bubbling underneath convention's orthodox surface.

Mrs Alving's "house of sin" was brilliantly recreated in the Wolsey with a fine eye for detail.

This was drama on compelling slow-burn and under the assured, yet light, directorial hand of Stephen Unwin, the cast of five gave utterly gripping performances. One of the many triumphs is the pairing of Diana Quick's magisterial Mrs Alving and William Chubb as the pastor. Thankfully, the production was not without it's lighter moments.

Michael Cronin, as Engstrad, briefly reprised his comic role of cowering Irishman on the sharp end of a Basil Fawlty-style dressing-down from Manders in one nostalgic moment that recalled "The Builders" episode of Fawlty Towers.

As his step-daughter and the maid to Mrs Alving, Jody Watson walked tall into her final fate as brothel-fodder. Marriage to Mrs Alving's son, Osvald (Daniel Evans), turns out to be unthinkable. As the play comes to its final moments, it is quite obviously impossible.

Bleak, yes, but brilliant: if you see anything at the Wolsey, you must see this.

James Fraser

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