Of the two Ibsen revivals gracing Scottish stages at present, Dundee Rep and the National Theatre of Scotland’s award-winning Peer Gynt appears the more irreverent in its approach to the playwright’s satirical fantasy. On the surface at least, Jeremy Raison’s production of Ghosts for the Citz opts for a familiar take on the Norwegian’s ‘open sewer’ of a play, about a woman whose attempts to distance herself from memories of her philandering husband are comprehensively undone when she discovers that their son, Oswald, is suffering from congenital syphilis, and has begun courting his own half-sister.
Jason Southgate’s picture-perfect drawing-room set, naturalistic lighting and period costumes lure us into a false sense of security, but we are quickly jolted out of our complacency by the intensity of the play, whose bleak conclusions still have the power to unsettle. Raison wisely forgoes an interval, immersing the audience in this absurd, claustrophobic world for 90 minutes, and, if the tone at times veers too abruptly between broad comedy and melodrama, the energy with which the cast attack their roles is infectious. There’s a strong turn from Billy Mack as the carpenter Engstrand, forever muttering about setting up a ‘refuge for sailors’. But it is from the intense central relationship between Mrs Alving and Oswald that this production derives its power. Maureen Beattie and Steven Robertson are compelling in those roles, the partnership delivering a conclusion that is as moving as it is harrowing.
Citizens’ Theatre, Glasgow, until Sat 30 May