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Ghosts (Salisbury)

English Touring Theatre make Ibsen's play, on tour to the Salisbury Playhouse, an "absorbing piece"

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
Mark Quartley, Kelly Hunter. Ghosts
© Simon Annand

English Touring Theatre's latest production is Henrik Ibsen's controversial Ghosts. Not only does the production re-imagine the imagery from Max Reinhardt's 1906 production, but the cast make this an absorbing piece.

Ghosts is set in the house of the late Captain Alving, now owned by his wife. His "prodigal son" has returned after spending years as a painter in Italy. He is suffering from an illness, and Mark Quartley's performance is overwrought with pain and uncertainty.

As the play begins, the local Lutheran Pastor Manders is visiting to discuss the orphanage that Mrs Alving had set up in memory of her husband. Patrick Drury is disapproving and pious as the cleric, whilst showing how narrow-minded and credulous he is. His condescension is gradually worn away as Mrs Alving tells him what her marriage was like.

The theme of Ghosts is truth, and it is deftly portrayed by Kelly Hunter as Mrs Alving. She dotes on her son, but is suffering the anguish of uncertainty over whether she should tell him about his father's philandering. Is telling the truth the right thing to do?

Florence Hall plays an ambitious and flirtatious maid, Regina, who is looking for any means of social advancement. The play is full of characters who think for themselves, especially when it comes to twisting the truth. It is Engstrand, however, who brings compassion to Ghosts, and Pip Donaghy provides some touching moments.

The production has recreated Edvard Munch's designs from the 1906 version, including the landscape that dominates the back. It comes into its own from the end of the first act and the imagery at the end is powerful. This is thanks to the lighting, which provides some striking moments during the production.

Ghosts is a thought provoking production, as secrets are revealed for better or for worse, all thanks to an excellent cast. Together with the production values this is a must see!

- David Jobson

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