‘Ghosts’ was harrowing.
It is rare to find a production which so entirely and successfully transports the audience from one world to another. Every element needs to meld seamlessly from the acting, costuming, set, lighting, space and narrative. The Curators’ adaptation of Henrik Ibsen’s ‘Ghosts,’ was that production, a theatrical work which was virtually flawless from beginning to end.
‘Ghosts’ is a harrowing tale of family secrets which have long been buried. When Helene Alving’s artistic and promiscuous son returns from years abroad in Paris, trauma begins to reveal itself and the family’s tumultuous past resurfaces. ‘Ghosts’ traverses the line of metaphorical ghosts which haunt the mind and the physical world with dazzling effectiveness.
Director Michael Beh has created a new, modernised and abridged version of Ibsen’s iconic work. Originally banned in 1881 when it was first written, The Curators newest adaption of ‘Ghosts’ unapologetically embraces the disturbed characters which can still shock audiences, 183 years after Ibsen created them.
Beh has updated some of the language within the script and set the production in a liminal time period. Costuming and props hark back to the original production yet reference to dollars and the occasional F-bomb drop pulled audiences back to the present day. Despite these changes and shortening the script from three acts to two, Beh has been successful in maintaining the integrity of Ibsen’s original work and presented a production which is not afraid to embrace the alternative.
Effective performance creates an experience from the moment an audience enters the theatre to the second they exit. Beh certainly delivered with a stunning movement and lighting sequence taking place as the audience filed in. The stage was split in two with a curtain of plastic creating a scrim-like effect and directional lighting casting stunning shadows. Each character was individually introduced as they disjointedly moved throughout the space. The disturbed and stylised mood of the performance was established from the beginning and effectively maintained throughout the duration of the production.
Not a second was wasted, movement lost or words thrown away throughout the piece to the credit of Beh and the highly skilled cast.
Lisa Hickey as Helene Alving presented her character’s overly possessive mind with emotional intelligence and balance. The character could easily be overplayed, however, Hickey navigated the line between stable and insane with commendable skill.
Tom Coyle as Pastor Manders commanded the stage despite the character’s naturally quiet nature. His portrayal was perfectly balanced against the other larger-than-life personalities and his presence was appreciated as a representation of the mentally sound. In contrast, Warwick Comber as Engstrand filled the stage in stature, voice and presence. Comber embodied the frightening character fully however also allowed audiences to peer into a gentler facet of his personality.
Lauren Roche was unnervingly beautiful in her portrayal of Regina, a character who is equally as twisted as those who inhabit the house. Roche’s tension of movement and incredible physicality added a new level to a character which was less developed in Ibsen’s original iteration.
While every actor was exceptional in their performance, Patrick Shearer as Oswald was the most striking in physicality, voice, emotion and presentation. Shearer commanded the stage with exceptional skill and presented a character who was entirely twisted from the inside out.
Since the production was of such high quality, small moments where attention to detail lacked were highlighted. Sections of the plastic which covered the furniture had visible logos which broke the illusion of otherworldliness that was so effectively created in the space. When Helene Alving removed her son Oswald’s shoes, the ‘bonds’ logo of the socks was clearly visible to half the audience who all laughed in response. These small issues could be easily addressed for the remainder of the season and would allow the magic of theatre to be fully maintained from beginning to end.
‘Ghosts’ by The Curators did not try and be alternative as many productions do. Every moment was used to further the narrative and maintain the characters. The unorthodox nature of the production simply followed naturally. ‘Ghosts’ by The Curators is truly a theatrical treat for Brisbane audiences.
‘Ghosts’ plays at the Vintage Pop Up Theatre in Red Hill until Sunday, 4 August 2019. Book your ticket today at The Curators Website.