By Henrik Ibsen. Newcastle Theatre Company. Director: Debra Hely. October 12 – 22, 2011.

It’s always reassuring when community theatre companies veer off the trusted path of farce and classics and venture into what might be perceived as more ‘risky’ territory – by either staging brand new, cutting-edge works or perhaps riskier still, taking one of Ibsen’s vehicles for a spin.

Ghostsis perhaps not one of his most well-known plays, but it was certainly one of his most controversial. At the time of its 1881 release, The London Daily Telegraph called the play "an open drain; a loathsome sore unbandaged; a dirty act done publicly; a lazar house with all its doors and windows open."

With a description like that, who could resist? Anything that retrospectively rips into ‘social mores’ is always a guilty pleasure, but the way this play delicately dances around the topics of desire, infidelity, ambiguous paternity and venereal disease (STI’s for you Gen Y readers) with such voluminous prose – it’s a fascinating, (if wordy) piece to chew over.

The less-experienced members of the cast rose to the occasion with commitment and enthusiasm, but Annie Bilton and Paul Russell are stand-outs, giving nuanced, absorbing performances. The set design comprised equal parts authenticity and artistic interpretation – which seemed more incongruous than evocative and a tad restrictive, but this minor distraction was smoothed over by clever lighting design and truly mesmerising performances.

Rose Cooper

Peter Murray as Oswald Alving, Annie Bilton as Mrs Alving and Paul Russell as Pastor Manders in Ghosts  - Photo by Noel Grivas

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