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Ghosts

Brunton Theatre, Musselburgh
3 stars
When Frank McGuinness' new version of Ibsen's nineteenth century assault on morality appeared in 2010 in a production by Iain Glen, McGuinness' language was rightly praised for its frankness. London Classic Theatre recognise this enough to give it serious treatment in Michael Cabot's look at the play, even if at times it is let down by uneven acting and melodramatic flourishes that render it off-kilter.

Set on the day before widowed Helene Alving is about to erect a monument to her seemingly respectable husband, the play's ghosts cast up by the pious Pastor Mander are nothing compared to those inherited by Helene's prodigal son Oswald, in blissfully horny ignorance as he chases the maid just like his old man did. The opening scene between maid Regine and her grizzled father looks promising in this Irish-accented version that lends things a chewily vivid speakability. Which makes it all the more mysterious why Brendan Fleming plays Manders with a pronounced stacato that labours every word, while his twinkly-eyed passive aggressive streak finds him practically winking at the audience. If he had a moustache, it would be twirled with silent movie vigour

This upsets things considerably, although Pauline Whitaker still manages to maintain a brittle sensitivity for Helene during their lengthy exchanges. Hasan Dixon's Oswald is damaged goods, emotionally, phychologically and as it turns out physically too. Abby Leamon's initially sparky, social-climbing Regine is similarly messed up by the revelations. For all the production's inconsistencies in pace and tone, there's still a power at play here in in what becomes an extended confessional of an entire small town society's hidden depths that put it on a syphilitic par with Twin Peaks.

The Herald, June 28th 2011

ends

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