Theatre review: Ghosts
A flawed adaptation of the Ibsen classic
On its premiere in 1882, Henrik Ibsen’s Ghosts caused a scandal due to its frank treatment of taboo subject matter. Such an extreme reaction now seems passé, but the Tron Theatre’s latest production attempts to give the play’s scathing critique of 19th century morals a 21st century flavour. Directed by Andy Arnold, Megan Barker’s new adaptation of Ghosts is an ill-constructed latticework of secrets and lies, which, despite its ambition, fails to effectively express its horror.
Translating the shocking content of Ibsen’s original into a modern context, Ghosts uses the personal and professional machinations of local council members in present-day Scotland to explore the disturbingly relevant issues of child abuse and political corruption.
The production’s contemporary character is reflected in its distinctly modern design. Neil Warmington’s sleek and stylish set is beautifully illuminated by Sergey Jakovsky’s spectral lighting, while Kim Beveridge’s video projections of the symbolic stag motif skilfully enhance the play’s themes.
But these striking visuals fail to mask the production’s flaws. The series of unsavoury revelations that animate the plot feel predictable and clumsily connected, while the action is stiff and uninspired. Though Billy Riddoch excels as the avuncular yet devious Jacob Engstrand, a number of lacklustre performance undermine the production.
Ghosts successfully evokes the unsettling spirit of the source play in a modern context, but the impact of the production is dampened by a lack of cohesion and vitality. It’s visually impressive, but the inelegantly crafted adaptation muddies its themes and makes for a disappointing theatrical experience.
Tron Theatre, Oct 7–24, £10–16.