It's a Wednesday night...
I'm sat in Theatre 1 at HOME next to my sister with my phone switched off and pockets emptied off all its coins and keys (because I did not want any unexpected noise during the performance to be traced back to me) taking in the stage before us, so full of personality, with Niamh Cusack sat on a couch already in character. We are here to see David Watson's version of Henrik Ibsen's play Ghosts - a play I am not at all familiar with, however, the poster for this adaptation had my eyebrows raised so I cleared my schedule and my way down to HOME after work.
Henrik Ibsen - Norwegian poet & playwright (1828 - 1906).
The stage upon which a handful of Henrik Ibsen's characters - first shared with the world back in 1881 - will tell their story in Manchester (18th Nov - 3rd Dec) is completely mesmerising due to the set truly looking worn in. Books placed precariously on tables, a laundry basket behind the couch, a cluttered kitchen counter, a messy coat rack and a tired woman sat on her couch, staring into space with so much on her mind she does not realise the audience she has. My sister and I are both hooked, instantly.
Setting: The Alving's Estate, by a large fjord in the middle of the countryside
The woman is Helen Alving, a widower grappling with the feeling of freedom after having spent most of her youth pinned down by the weight of disheartening truths. Her beloved son, Osvald Alving whom she has not seen for a long while has returned home to attend his father's funeral with more baggage than that which houses his clothes. And with the help of Regine Engstrand - Helen's ward who dreams of a bigger and better life than the one she has -, her troubled father Jacob and the credulous Pastor Manders, the ghosts that have been troubling this particular household are slowly brought to light.
Running time: 2 hours
This entertaining, poignant play is brought to the stage brilliantly by Olivier award-winning director Polly Findlay. I do not notice the 2 hours fly by because of how well the actors draw me into the complex but relatable world Henrik Ibsen, playwright David Watson, Polly Findlay and production designer Johannes Schutz have painted. Niamh Cusack (The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night - National Theatre & West End), Ken Nwosu (The Alchemist - Royal Shakespeare Company), Norah Lopez Holden (Epic Love and Pop Songs - Pleasance Dome), Jamie Ballard (The Merchant of Venice - Royal Shakespeare Company) and William Travis (Fallen Angels - Salisbury Playhouse) make up the small - but by no means unimpressive - cast; it felt as though there were at least 10 characters on stage. And the dialogue and range of emotions portrayed flowed so naturally that I forgot for a long while that I was watching a play, it was weird - a good weird.
Same Wednesday night, 2 hours later...
I am left with a sad but warm feeling - one that urges me to strive for a full life despite the cards I've been dealt with. A captivating and comedic play exploring family dynamics and the power of love, betrayal, money and fear; my take on HOME's production of Ghosts (18th Nov - 3rd Dec) is this: see it or don't that's your choice but if you do I bet you'll be bewitched by its charms too.