Review: Ghosts, Sam Wanamaker Playhouse

Hattie Morahan is exceptional in Joe Hill-Gibbins’ astonishing take on Ghosts at the Sam Wanamaker Playhouse

“There are ghosts everywhere. There are ghosts here right now”

I’m not particularly partial to spot of Ibsen, I have to say. Every so often, a production will blow my mind but overall, the prospect rarely thrills. But the Globe opting to stage him for the first time, in the Sam Wanamaker Playhouse, and bringing back the long-absent Joe Hill-Gibbins as director and adaptor meant that I knew I’d find it hard to resist Ghosts.

The casting of Hattie Morahan as Helene Alving merely sealed the deal and she is sensational here. A woman trapped in a state of mourning at the death of her husband but also of his legacy, terrible secrets about his behaviour still haunt her and as they begin to manifest in what is left of her family, she’s brittle and baffled at what her life has become.

Paul Hilton is also strong as Manders, her old friend whose feelings still run deep even if he doesn’t know how to act on them. And as her son, the wretched Osvald, Stuart Thompson is eerily effective as he suggests how far his condition might already have progressed, heightening the psychodrama of it all, even while a surprising vein of dark comedy also creeps in.

What really stuns though is Rosanna Vize’s design which brilliantly disrupts the space of this playhouse (which, to be fair, I’ve only visited a few times). Laying down evocative deep red shagpile and mirroring the back wall has a seriously transformative effect, making this a deeply non-traditional but hugely effective and exciting take on the play. Phenomenal.

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