(Michael Billington’s article appeared in the Guardian, 10/4.)
The most radical feature of Richard Eyre's first-rate revival of Ghosts is its speed. Shorn of intervals, Ibsen's 1881 play races along and is over in 90 minutes. The effect is to remind us how much Ibsen, the pioneer of naturalism, owed to Greek tragedy: he shows us the present consequences of past actions in a sustained arc of suffering.
Ibsen may be indebted to the Greeks, but here he also feels one of us: in showing Oswald's return from Paris to the stifling Alving family home, Ibsen confronts us with such themes as inherited disease, sibling incest and assisted death. At points I feel Eyre's new version is, verbally and visually, over-emphatic. Oswald here attacks those who question the freedom of the artistic life as "moralising cretins", and the terrifying moment when Oswald repeats the patterns of the past by seductively flirting with the maid is surely more effective when overheard rather than seen, as it is with the aid of Tim Hatley's transparent-walled set.
But otherwise Eyre's production grabs you by the throat and never releases its grip. Lesley Manville's Helene Alving starts as a buoyant, liberated woman determined to free herself from