Henrik Ibsen’s intense psychological drama, GHOSTS, was written in 1818 and first staged in Chicago Illinois the following year. Like many of Ibsen’s plays it is a scathing commentary on 19th century morality. Touching on issues such as free love, euthanasia, religious hypocrisy and venereal disease, the drama was reviled and dammed in the press of the time. This production, as translated by William Archer, is the second play to be presented by the recently formed Depot Theatre Company, previously the Sydney Independent Theatre Company.
The setting is the mid twentieth century and under the direction of Julie Baz the play comes to life and remains relevant to today’s audience.
GHOSTS opens with Jacob Engstrand, played with much sleaze and hypocritical virtue by Zac McKay, trying to convince as he tries to convince his purported daughter Regina to come work at the sailor’s establishment he wants to open. Emily McGowan plays Regina, a self-assured flirt at the start of the play, and is too proud of her job as Mrs. Alving’s maid to join her father.
Pastor Manders enters and tries to convince Regina to help her father. From the start David Jeffery brings out the self-righteous and unbending religious fervour and justification of everything the Pastor says and does.
Mrs Helen Alving is a complex character, a mix of a liberated and free thinking mind trapped within the conventions of her time. Julie Baz brings out the tormented nature of Helen’s struggle as she battles the ghosts of her sordid marriage and the consequences of her past decisions.
Helen is not the only victim, as it is soon revealed that her son Oswald, newly returned home after years pursuing a career as an artist in Paris, has terrible secrets of his own.
Steve Vincent as Oswald is very credible as he portrays his character’s gradual deterioration and the nature of his tormented relationship with his mother.
No one in the family is exempt from this growing web of lies and dark secrets.
We learn the truth of Helen’s maid Regina and her relationship with Helen’s late husband and the moral dilemmas that this poses. By the end Regina, as well as all the other characters, have their plans shattered and they are each forced to face the consequences of their past actions.
A plain but effective set by David Jeffery, and an evocative soundscape add to the power of this production as you can feel the audience’s emotions change in sympathy, encouragement or anger as the characters reveal their histories and their true selves.
Julie Baz’s revival of Henrik Ibsen’s classic play GHOSTS is playing at the Depot Theatre, Marrickville until Saturday 24th October. Performances are Wednesdays to Saturdays at 8pm and Sundays at 5pm.
CAST: – David Jeffrey- Pastor Manders, Zac McKay – Jacob Engstrand, Emily McGowan- Regina Engstrand, Julie Baz- Mrs Helen Alving, Steve Vincent- Oswald Alving.
CREATIVES:- Julie Baz- Director, David Jeffrey- Designer, Stage Manager- Mehran Mortezaei.