Lloyd Marken is a freelance writer with a passion for the arts who has been published with Scenestr, Heavy, Buzz, X-Press, FilmInk and Weekend Notes. Visit my blog at https://backtothedrawingboardproductions.com/
Ibsen's Ghosts continue to haunt
Ghosts by Henrik Ibsen. Courtesy of The Curators Website.
The Curators remain indie theatre with a difference, plenty can dip into a little Shakespeare, put on a beloved musical or update Brecht or Noel Coward but this is not for The Curators. If Shakespeare is on the agenda well they'll completely revamp it, and so far they've sought out Chekov and now Henrik Ibsen. With two of the three pivotal figures of early modernism in theatre adapted, another work from Strindberg can't be far behind.
These are historic playwrights, important in the development of much that carries on today, but still from a distant past. They cover social hierarchies, religious influence and lifestyles that can be hard to understand or have resonate with a modern audience. Yet human nature does not change and certain truths will always resonate.
Like Chekov's Uncle Vanya before it, Ghosts by Ibsen starts off with a bewildering disorientation, who are these people and what is going on? Yet the predicaments of these characters slowly unravel in front of the audience and before one knows it, they are caught up in finding out what their fate will be.
Helene Alving (Lisa Hickey) is eager to see her son Oswald (Patrick Shearer) home from studying abroad in Paris. Part of her household staff is Regina (Lauren Roche), daughter of the sailor Engstrand (Warwick Comber). This father and daughter team seem coarse and ambitious but not without their own cleverness and noble intentions.
Constantly bickering with all of them is Pastor Manders played by Tom Coyle whose devotion to ideals and morality may make him a bit of a drag but also ultimately a tragic figure. Nobody is perfect, but by God, at least they're all trying in their own way and this is the most moving aspect of the script and performances.
As a result, this is a much easier and accessible production to get into from The Curators and the design of the show only helps to make it a more evocative piece. Staged at St Barnabas Parish in Red Hill, the look of the place is perfect for that time period.
Sound effects and lighting maintain the atmosphere of everyone being shut in by the rain. Yet it is the ghostly effects created from lighting and the hall being split by a wall of plastic which really excel, bringing to mind the work of film-maker David Lynch. It is a little unpleasant and otherworldly and totally spectacular.
Sadly while these effects are fantastic they are few and far between, for long stretches, scenes fade to black only to have furniture moved around when lit up again.
It is also worth noting that the Church pews start to become a little uncomfortable after a long period of sitting on them and given that a sizeable portion of the audience is of an age where creature comforts are to be savoured perhaps future productions could consider different seating arrangements.
Ghosts by Henrik Ibsen as adapted by Michael Beh continues the ambitious work of The Curators to bring classical texts alive for our modern times, In more simply conveying the emotional truth of the story and increasing the abstract aspects of their mise-en-scene, they may have created their most successful attempt yet.