Ghosts at HOME

Ghosts, by Henrik Ibsen, comes to HOME in November.  Directed by Polly Findlay, adapted by David Watson, and with Niamh Cusack playing Helen Alving, the play looks at the changing roles of men and women, and how we fight the past to try to change the future.  Polly Findlay, Director, comments ‘HOME is about making stories feel fresh and contemporary. The challenge is to make it feel like a story that would happen today, to make it more immediate.’

Helen Alving is living with a dilemma borne out of a deep-held secret – her long-deceased husband was perceived as a pillar of the community, respected as much as he was liked for being a loving husband and adoring father. However, in reality, he was a philandering adulterer. She decides, to honour and preserve his memory, to open an orphanage, but her real motivation is not quite so noble. As Helen and her son, Oswald, are putting together the finishing touches to the orphanage, she confides in the family pastor, Manders, what her husband was really like.

Polly says ‘The catalyst is an argument between Pastor Manders and Oswald. Manders argues for a 19th century set of values based on duty, responsibility and self sacrifice. Oswald counters with individuality, self expression and the right to seek the truth.  Post 1960, the audience would have been completely on Oswald’s side.  David [Watson, the writer who has adapted this script from the original] has kept the spirit of the original argument without honouring the letter. Manders now argues for respect and duty to the family. A subtle change from pater familias to a responsible family member.’

Ken Nwosu plays Oswald. ‘Oswald’s ideas are very progressive. He believes in free thinking and free living and wants to break out of the constraints of the town where he is living. Even at the time the play is set, Oswald is more of our own time than 1881. He was ahead of his time in how he saw men and women.’  Jamie Ballard plays Pastor Manders. ‘In this world, what the man says goes. Helen and Regine take that head on and ultimately overcome it.’

Set design is by Johannes Schütz who has worked extensively in Germany. ‘Its a good match for this play in this building’, comments Polly.  ‘There is a real sense of place’, adds Jamie. ‘The island location is isolated and lonely, bleak, dark, wet and cold, an end of the road feel.’  Ken agrees. ‘It evokes the idea of Styx. Every time Oswald gets the boat across, he doesn’t want to be there. He doesn’t see it as real, he thinks that if you look out of the door, people see you as a relic.’

Ghosts is on at HOME from  18 November to 3 December.

Theatre lover, amateur director, occasional actor, writer.

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