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by Henrik Ibsen

Cast & Crew

Regina Engstrand Katie Doyle
Jacob Engstrand
Rob Kendall
Pastor Manders Bob Godfrey
Mrs Helen Alving
Pauline Sawford
Osvald Alving
Peter Lewis

Director Ian Spiby
Assistant Director
Helen Dollar
Stage Manager
Clare Brittain
Set adapted from designs by
Steve French
Set built by
Michael Adams, Gary Burchill, Fred Harrison
Lighting designed by
Carl Kirk
Lighting and sound operated by
Helen Dollar
Clare Brittain, Pam Mann
Rob Kendall
Continuity Dave Saunders

Pauline Sawford as Mrs Helen Alving and Peter Lewis as Osvald

Production No. 359

Images from Ghosts


Ian Spiby, director

When Ghosts first appeared over a hundred years ago it was greeted with such howls of outrage and disgust that people didn’t dare admit they’d seen it or read it.

It was like having hardcore porn on your coffee table today!

The newspapers vied with one another to condemn it – “an open sewer”, “a running sore”, “a dirty deed done publically” were some of the phrases used.

And what was all the fuss about? Henrik Ibsen, in what is now regarded as one of the greatest plays of the last century and a half had dared to reveal that beneath the surface of apparently respectable Families, there are often very murky goings-on!

The story is tremendous and Ibsen keeps up the tension right till the very last minute.

Osvald Alving, a young artist living in Paris returns home to Norway after he discovers he has hereditary syphilis, which was then incurable. In the final stages, syphilis attacks the brain causing insanity and paralysis.

His one hope is in marrying Regina, who lives with his mother “almost as one of the family” but in a dramatic scene, it is revealed that she is actually his half-sister, the child of one of his dead father’s liaisons.

Terrified of being left alone, mad and paralysed he asks his mother that when the time comes, she will give him an overdose of morphine.

What Mrs Alving does, I’ll leave you to find out.

What has struck me over and over again has been how modern it all is.

We regularly open the newspapers and read about an incurable disease passed on from parent to child (we now call it AIDS); assisted suicide and euthanasia are commonly in the news and more and more frequently we hear about stepbrothers and sisters having relationships, even producing children.

Ibsen had his finger firmly on the pulse of the fundamental problems of living.

Now I know that this might sound like special pleading but in 30-odd years of directing plays, I’ve never been so excited about a production and never had the privilege of working with such a talented cast.

Long-standing Masque member, Pauline Sawford is playing the exacting role of Mrs Alving, while the Chairman, Bob Godfrey is Manders, the puritanical and unforgiving pastor.

Newcomer Peter Lewis who trained at E15 drama school is playing Osvald and Katie Doyle, another young newcomer, a student taking a drama degree at Northampton University, is Regina.

The part of her foster-father, Engstrand, is taken by Rob Kendall who can remember the last Masque production of Ghosts in the 1960s!

Another new face is Steve French who has designed a very exciting and evocative set with broken mirrors and water effects which makes full use of the space at Holy Sepulchre.

27 - 31 May 2008 at 7.30pm
The Church of the Holy Sepulchre, Sheep Street, Northampton

Page last updated: 18/03/2013 Masque Theatre © 2013


John Hendy

If Ghosts isn't the gloomiest and most depressing play ever written it is certainly among the top few.

I have seen one professional and three Masque productions and, while I have admired some, I can't say that I enjoyed any of them!

The first Masque one was in 1967, directed by Dennis Phillips and I can remember nothing about it and the second was in 1990, directed by Lesley Baker-Glenn with Robert Baker-Glenn as Manders, Carol Harrison as Mrs Alving and Tony Saunders as Oswald and I was quite impressed by it.

The professional production was by the RSC in 1993 at the Other Place in Stratford, directed by Katie Mitchell with John Carlisle, Jane Lapotaire and Simon Russell Beale and was deeply disappointing.

The current Masque version was, overall, very satisfactory.

The set was distinctly minimalist - one panel with period photos on it, one sofa, a few chairs and a table and various props provided an atmospheric background to the action, complemented by excellent sound and lighting.

And the director, Ian Spiby, had secured the first essential for a good production, namely a good cast.

Bob Godfrey, as Pastor Manders, showed the essential weakness behind the dogmatic churchman, always placing his own reputation above any other consideration.

Pauline Sawford gave her usual excellent performance as Mrs Alving, though I found her rather too comfortable and motherly a figure for the angst ridden widow.

Newcomer Peter Lewis disintegrated splendidly as Oswald and I look forward to seeing him in The Venetian Twins.

Katie Doyle, another new face, was a spirited Regina and Rob Kendall earned my thanks for finding more humour in Engstrand than I would have believed possible in any Ibsen part.

So, if not exactly enjoyable, this was a production well up to Masque standards, as I would have expected from Ian Spiby, remembering his versions, many years ago, of Iolanthe and The Beggar's Opera.

However, the last word on Ibsen must go to a snippet from a musical version of Ghosts, once featured in a London revue:

Doom, doom, I sit in my room,
Wrapped in a deep Scandinavian gloom,
Rain, rain, misery and pain
And Nora and Hedda for luncheon again.

That says it all.

A scene from Ghosts