REVIEW: Ghosts, Duchess Theatre near Covent Garden

Two star rating To put Ibsen into the West End shows courage, especially when it s Ghosts – a play described on its first reception as an open sewer . Ibsen may not be seen as a perpetrator of filth, but those two double o words gloom and doom stick

Two star rating

To put Ibsen into the West End shows courage, especially when it's Ghosts - a play described on its first reception as an "open sewer".

Ibsen may not be seen as a perpetrator of filth, but those two double 'o' words gloom and doom stick to him still, like fossilised glue. How will such sombre stuff survive among its all-singing, all-dancing competition?

Mrs Alving's old flame, the pastor, arrives to open an orphanage in honour of her dead husband. Her son returns from Paris. The orphanage burns down, the truth about her dissolute husband's life emerges and she is finally faced with an impossible decision.


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It is the "sewerage", the content of the play, that screams out its urgency. We watch the fallout from potentially fatal sexually transmitted diseases as they pass from one generation to another, finally meeting the question of mercy killing.

While there is no link between STDs and euthanasia outside the play, both are in our newspaper headlines and neither will go away.

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Add a fast-moving plot, complex backstories and you have a compelling tale. Iain Glen's conventionally realistic production certainly holds an audience of young and old alike. A fourth wall lifts to reveal a beautiful wooden interior of Scandanavian white. We hear a steady, unceasing downpour and see the windows streaked with rain.

Disappointingly, this version brings little but an unhelpful emphasis on the theme of filth.

Performances are mannered and there's a tendency for each actor to work in isolation. So the characters appear to be making their emotional journeys alone.

Perhaps it was too great an ambition for Glen both to direct and star in this challenging play. Otherwise, an enthusiastic audience shows his ambitions for Ibsen among the musicals has not been misplaced.

Until May 15.

Rebecca Banks

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