6 January 2014

Ibsen's Ghosts at Trafalgar Studios

My interest in Ibsen's Ghosts was peaked by a recent radio adaptation but it took an offer from Hot Tickets to get me to see the same production on stage.

My "no thinking required" price-point is around £20, above that needs some justification, so an offer for a seat at £16 with a face value of £50 was an easy one to accept. I guess there must have been some returns as I was able to get a seat in the second row (B26), albeit somewhat to the left of centre.

I had only been to Trafalgar Studios a couple of times, and not always to the main studio either, so I had forgotten what it is like. It is a little odd.

There is no gap between the seats in the front row, they are bright red bench seats with high backs, the front rows are curved slightly at the ends {somewhere between "]" and ")"} and are nicely raked. I was in one of the curves which meant a little less space that usual but I was helped considerably by the no-show in an adjacent seat. This also got me past the problem of the tall woman in the front row.

The set was nicely done and nicely used.

For most of the time it was a normal reception room but the back wall was translucent so, with the correct lighting, we could see through to the dining room and the front door. I am sure that it was no coincidence that the people in that room had a ghostly appearance.

The story was what it is. Ghosts is very clunky in places, e.g. the belaboured conversations about insurance and then about candles, but there also a few points of solid drama - not quite twists but unexpected developments none the less.

It also lacks somewhat for characters. The main players are either thinly portrayed or are not that nice. It was difficult to feel any sympathy for any of them despite none of them being particularly bad people and some particularly bad things happened to them. This was a fault of the play and not the acting which was superb throughout. A special mention goes to Jack Lowden as the ailing Oswald who is most punished by the ghosts of the past.

The big surprise for me was the ending. Not only was this markedly different from the other stage version that I saw earlier this year but it also seemed to be different from the radio version of this production!

The play ends on the dilemma Helene Alving faces on how to deal with her son. At the Rose it was deliberately ambiguous but slightly positive, on the radio it was ambiguous but negative and here she made a clear decision and it was very negative. On the stage this was shown in her actions so I will have to check the radio version again to see what difference, if any, there was in the words.

I still have misgivings about Ghosts as a play, and I do not expect to see it ever again, but this production made the most of what it had to play with and was thoroughly entertaining. I am glad that I got an offer on it though.

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