- Gareth K Vile
- 20 August 2018
This article is from 2018.
A traditional telling of the Ibsen classic
Situated in a venue far from the madding Fringe, this version of Ibsen's Ghosts comes from the Ukraine and transplants the action, if not the script, to a bourgeois family in the Ukraine. Relying heavily on the shadows and darkness, it describes how the sins of the father are visited on the son - and the wife, who hopes that her husband's indolence has not been passed onto their child.
Much of the play is taken up with reflections on the changing values that allow men to live with women outside of marriage – by comparison, the older generation merely suffered under the hypocrisy of an apparently perfect marriage – or tensions between the working and wealthy classes. Within the Fringe, the bravura performances have an old-fashioned and formal aura, which suits Ibsen's frowning seriousness.
The production unlocks little unexpected from the script: the onset of the son's illness probably syphilis, but also a metaphorical sickness passed through the male line that destroys happiness through a surfeit of desire that collapses into apathy and anguish – is played out at a measured and painful pace, while the mother's uncertain optimism is revealed as a facade to hide the suffering her husband left as a legacy. It's bleak and formal, austere and cold, and the ensemble give moving performances that, through a combination of the language barrier and the old-fashioned style of direction, can't quite revive these ghosts.