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Ghosts

Tron Theatre, Glasgow
Three stars


You can tell things aren't going to turn out well in Megan Barker's contemporary new take on Henrik
Ibsen's nineteenth century treatise on hand-me-down guilt and the long-term consequences of desperate actions. It's something about the way John Hogg's Osvald, the motorbike riding, film-making prodigal returning to his mammy's Highland home, kills a stag en route. For such a symbol of macho pride to be felled so cruelly seems to be a portent of Osvald's emasculation, even as it forms his opening monologue in Barker's richly poetic text.

Osvald is greeted, not by his widowed town councillor mother, Helen, as played by Alison Peebles,
but by Scarlett Mack's social-climbing young assistant Regina. Her plans are waylaid by her ex policeman father, Jacob, before Helen arrives with her political ally, Martin. With plans afoot to bankroll a care home in honour of Helen's late husband, it's a summit meeting to be reckoned with in Andy Arnold's production which becomes a damningly prescient indictment of everyday corruption.

In keeping with the melodrama of Ibsen's original, the action revs from nought to sixty in a matter of minutes as secrets collapse into each other with devastating results during a dark night of the soul that destroys all involved. While its not difficult to make parallels with recent real life events, the play's stand-out image comes in the second half, when Osvald and Helen's self-destruction is seen in relentless close-up.  Here the very personal fall-out of how a weak local authority caught with its pants down can become complicit in institutionalised abuse on a grand scale is made brutally clear,
even as it damns future generations forever.

The Herald, October 12th 2015


ends

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