With just a few weeks to go until curtains go up on our production of ‘Ghosts’ (and the skies over the Norwegian fjords come crashing down!), we spoke to our cast to get their thoughts on the classic Scandi noir and their first impressions of the playwright himself, Henrik Ibsen.
Vanessa Marchant - Mrs Alving I knew very little about Ibsen other than that his plays could be long-winded and dull. So when Ian said he was putting Ghosts forward I was not convinced. Then we had a read through of the Richard Eyre adaptation and I was met with a brutal commentary on life, love and the emotional baggage that we carry around with us. As a society, there is a current dialogue about how we perceive mental health and I think this play starkly highlights one family's plight.
Stephen Beard - Oswald Alving Whilst waiting for us to start a recent rehearsal, I had a flick through my Facebook news feed; “Today the world lost a superstar”, “I never really post things like this…” “Leaked celebrity sex tape” and I realised that the society we live in today is just what the heads of state during Ibsen’s time were trying to prevent. Nowadays we seem overly keen to tell the world of all our issues, thoughts and desires through numerous social media platforms.
We started this journey thinking that we were exploring certain topics that would certainly raise some eyebrows in the audience, but the reality is that the ‘immorality of foreign cities’ is all around and the romanticised image of the world, where people have picnics on riverbanks and faces glowing with happiness does not exist. We are flawed.
Colin Sheehan - Pastor Manders I'm not going to lie, my first impressions of Ibsen came via his Wikipedia page and initially I was more impressed by his beard than any of his literary achievements. But as I scrolled, his influence and importance to theatre became ever more apparent. "The father of realism"? Knighthoods? Nobel Prize nominations? Not bad for a man I'd assumed had spent his life projecting doom and gloom on an unsuspecting world. Then I read 'Ghosts'...
Who are these horrible people? Why would anyone ever want to write about them? To satisfy my curiosity I auditioned and (surprisingly) got a part… then it slowly started to make sense. The more I stand on stage and absorb both my lines and those spoken around me, the more I understand why Ibsen had to write this play. With everything going on in the world right now, his words feel just as relevant. Is it an uplifting, light-hearted, joyous play? Perhaps not. But boy does it pack a punch and it deserves to be seen... so come see it!
Harriet White - Regina Engstrand I first fell in love with Ibsen's dissident women as a precocious undergrad student studying A Doll's House. I'm still just as precocious but now even more in awe of how characters like Mrs Alving, raised a dutiful daughter to become a dutiful wife, are allowed to rebel against the weaknesses and limitations imposed on them with radical thoughts of a world in which women are free to carve out their own paths in life. Ghosts may well be a catastrophically bleak play, but my feminist crush on Helene and an insanely talented cast & crew make the experience well worthwhile!
Paul Johnson - Jakob Engstrand If, as Ibsen said of ‘Ghosts’, ‘…everything I have written is… minutely connected with what I have lived through’, it is surprising that he found any time to write. Even though some of the narrative is more likely based on hearsay rather than on personal experience, I have to come to the conclusion that it was all kicking off, back in 1881. The turmoil could be blamed on a repressive society, the flaws of its people, or both, but either way, we cannot ever say that life back then was boring, and as this updated ‘Ghosts’ proves, the resonances are just as powerful today.