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“I’m haunted by ghosts, you see. And I think I’ll never be free of them.” Charlie Jordin reviews Ibsen’s Ghosts at HOME, Manchester.
By Charlie Jordin
When Helen Alving’s estranged son Osvald returns home after years of travelling, her life should be complete. Until, that is, the illusion of the happy life that she has so meticulously created begins unravelling around her. Haunted by the memories of her drunk and unfaithful husband, still having a huge impact on her life after his death, Helen attempts to repair the damage that has been done to her family before it is too late.
Based on a play written by Norwegian poet and playwright Henrik Ibsen, and directed by Olivier Award winner Polly Findlay, this version of Ghosts was written by David Watson, using a translation of the original by Charlotte Barslund. The play explores uncomfortable and often overlooked themes such as addiction, religion and the conflicting roles of women as mothers and wives. For example, Helen’s relationship with her pastor hides sexual tension behind religious dogma whilst her housekeeper represents the youth she once had.
Described by HOME as an ‘artistic two fingers up to Brexit’, Ghosts seamlessly blends Scandinavian culture with English language whilst simultaneously defying genre, aspects of Victorian melodrama being combined with contemporary surrealism. The cluttered and highly detailed set design of an average family home creates a sense of intimacy and voyeurism, as if the audience are eavesdropping on a household argument. This concept is reinforced by how Helen Alving is on stage before the play has begun, eating and reading on her sofa whilst the audience find their seats.
Ghosts is intense and at times bizarre, but nonetheless is unmissable. Niamh Cusack’s portrayal as the slowly deteriorating Helen is flawless, with her supporting cast equally impressive.
The play is showing at HOME until the 3rd of December and discounted student tickets are available in advance. On Thursday 1st December, Director Polly Findlay, along with some members of the cast, will be appearing after the show for an audience Q&A session. For more information and to book, visit the HOME website.