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Ghosts, Rose Theatre – Review

By Henrik Ibsen

Translated and directed by Stephen Urwin
★★★★
Pros: Subtle unraveling of the plot creates intricate relationships.
Cons: The interval felt a little oddly placed and disrupted the action.
Our Verdict: A piece that all dialogue lovers simply must see. Outstanding script.
Credit: Simon Annand
Ghosts tells the story of a family, or what’s become of it after the passing of the husband and father. Ten years after his death, a mother and son are reunited in the family estate in the fjord region of Western Norway. Beyond their relationship, a family friend and the quirky maid and her father complete the cast and the board is set for the game of secrets that Ghosts leads the audience in. As the plot develops hidden links between the parts are revealed and the scene firstly given to the audience of a straightforward family picture becomes a labyrinth of deception. The ghosts of those who are no longer with them and the memories of their former selves haunt the characters.
Mrs. Alving is a strong and above all, loving mother. We meet her first utterly committed to the memory of her late husband, her work as matron of a newly-opened orphanage, that will bring honor to the family name, and her son, Osvald played by Mark Quartley, who returns home for the celebrations of the tenth anniversary of her widowhood. We later learn that Osvald, presented as the prodigal son who has been away pursuing his art in Europe, and who at first seems to be looking for artistic adventure has in fact been estranged from the family home from a very early age by his mother. 
The Pastor, played by Patrick Drury and maid Regina, Florence Hall, first appear in the play to help Mrs. Alving finish preparations to open the orphanage and the tribute to her late husband. Mrs. Alving being the center of the spontaneous reunion between all parts directs the rhythm in the scenes that will later take a very unexpected turn, changing the direction of the action completely.
The cast kept up with the levels of the plot masterfully. Mrs. Alving comes through with a nature resembling the mountainous setting of the story; strong and majestic from the distance but shrouded in mystery. Just like those peaks, she proves treacherous to approach as Pastor Manders eventually finds out. Patrick Drury creates a textbook clergy member, insensitive to the true purpose of actions that go against the Holy Scriptures. It creates an absorbing contrast with Kelly Hunter’s Mrs Alving who is filled with emotion and realism. Mark Quartley turns Osvald into an impulsive and broken man. He comes back home hoping to mend the broken pieces of his inner artistic mechanisms only to find solitude in a home he can no longer relate to. He finds himself orbiting around Regina and her simple take on life and its problems in contrast with the dark secrets he carries with him.
The Rose Theatre presents a fantastic setting and use of stage to complement the storyline. A picture of rainy mountainous landscape confines the scene to the parlour of the house where conversations between the characters take place. The sound of rainfall punctuates the entire play, bringing the audience into the story.
This play is built by the subtleties in the dialogue between characters. Amongst the lines of a very long and seemingly irrelevant conversation will be hidden the nuanced elements of relationships. Events flow in a very inconspicuous manner, so that before you know it they build up to create a heart-stopping ending. Ghosts gives a cold, icy picture of a family home, haunted by memories and ghosts of the past. I left the theatre chilled to the bone and absolutely loving it.

Please feel free to leave your thoughts and opinions in the comments section below!
Ghosts runs at the Rose Theatre Kingston from 19th September to 12 October 2012, followed by a national tour.
Box Office:  08444 821 556 or visit: rosetheatrekingston.org 

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