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22 March 2014 @ 07:22 pm
I greatly enjoyed Ghosts yesterday evening at the Trafalgar Studios, with Lesley Manville as Mrs Alving. Having seen Manville as Lona Hassel in Pillars of the Community at the National, in which she was brilliant, this was a major draw. The production lived up to its promise, and was excellent; the decision to do it straight through without an interval has rightly been praised in the reviews and really worked. I couldn’t see where you could possible have an interval make sense, though it probably helps that the theatre has lots of leg room. It was “adapted and directed by Richard Eyre” (I don’t know what his C19 Danish is like, perhaps the programme that I didn’t buy mentions a translator), but it seemed to be adaptation as a freer translation rather than “Don’t worry darling! I invested your dissolute father’s money in exciting new medical developments. Some penicillin will sort you out and we shall move forward into a new life together.”*

Anyway, it was a good play text, good design, terrific direction and acting. You can absolutely see why it was a tremendous shocker when it came out; Ibsen’s always keen on skewing social hypocrisies, not least those guided by “what will people say” rather than human reason and decency, the characterisation of Pastor Manders is scathing, and a central message of “self-abnegation by a woman will not magically transform the character of a complete shit and maybe divorce is in fact sometimes a better idea” was perhaps not going to win over the critics who had their position by virtue of being signed up to it.

Speaking of dubious hereditary traits, I read Brat Farrar on the train. I enjoyed it, but would have done so more had it been less ragingly snobbish**. I can see why Ginty Marlow liked it.

*Though it is handy for the modern viewer that since congenital syphilis is not transmitted from the father skipping the mother, Ibsen gives a second possible route for transmission from Dad. Besides it being symbolic, that is.

**And a bit of the ending REALLY annoyed me. No, that is NOT the best solution for all concerned because after all it's in the past.