‘Ghosts’ is a play for adults, penned in late 1881 by Norwegian playwright Henrik Ibsen. The Norwegian play was written in Sorrento, in the Danish language before being premiered in Sweden in 1883. The play faced topics that even husbands and wives would not discuss in private. The audiences of the time were horrified and found it to be indecent. The play discusses religion, sex out of wedlock and conditions that any moral person would not even dream of. Even the King of Sweden and Norway said in 1898 that it was not a good play, to which Ibsen responded, “Your Majesty, I had to write Ghosts!” Like many of Ibsen’s plays, Ghosts is a scathing commentary on 19th-century morality.

In 1891, the play had only a single performance at the Royalty Theatre in London before the Lord Chamberlain’s Office censored and closed it. An Independent Theatre Society formed to produce the play privately for its members, a group that included the playwright George Bernard Shaw, along with authors Thomas Hardy and Henry James.

Ibsen detested the translation by William Archer, who used the word ‘Ghosts’ for the play’s title, when the Norwegian word Gengangere is more accurately and appropriately – to the storyline – translated as ‘The Ones Who Return’. This superb adaptation is by Darwin-born and WAAPA trained, Eamon Flack explains ‘the sins of the fathers’. The story covers profoundly serious subjects, but Eamon has lightened the tale by bringing several, cleverly written chuckles to each scene.

The Melville Theatre Company is presenting this admirable production until the 27th August. It can be seen at the Melville Theatre on the corner of Stock Road and Canning Highway in Melville each Thursday, Friday and Saturday evening at 8.00 pm with a 2.00 pm Sunday matinée.

This 100-minute show has NO INTERVAL.


The Scene:           1880 in a small Norwegian township. The living room in the home of the recently deceased Captain.

The set:                The sitting room has powder blue walls, with white painted woodwork and a white ‘carpet’. To the left is a passageway leading to the kitchen, to the right another passage to the bedrooms. At the rear of the stage is a door leading to a corridor and front door. Centre stage rear is a large bay window with a cushioned box seat, and a wooden curtain pole with lace curtains. There is a button on the wall, to call for the maid.

There are several pieces of barley twist, oak plant pot furniture including an antique whatnot, with plants in brass bowls. Centre stage, a lace tablecloth adorns the round table. There are three mahogany dining chairs and to the side, a chaise longue with a gold linen cover.

Set builders:       Thomas Dimmick, Peter Bloor, Ross Bertinshaw, Jacob Jensen and Barbara Lovell have produced a solid, well-finished construction.

Lighting design: Clare Talbot has matched the oil lamp lighting of the day.

Sound design:    Thomas Dimmick

Lighting and sound operation:    Thomas Dimmick

Stage manager: Andrea Newton

Smart programme and stunning photos: Vanessa Jensen and David Cox.

Programme printed by Docuprint. The black programme pages with white writing being perfect for the theme.

The programme also had a beautiful photograph of young Jeff Hansen, a genuinely great guy to be with, who sadly left us so quickly, due to leukaemia. Every ticket will therefore contribute to the Leukaemia Foundation.

When a small Norwegian town’s highly respected, charismatic and extremely wealthy Chamberlain (Mayor), Captain Alving dies, his widow Hélène Alving (Natalie Burbage) who is still an attractive middle-aged woman, decides along with the Shire to build an orphanage in his memory. He was a revered husband and the town’s wonderful Captain. A caring gentleman – as everyone thought.

Living for years in fear of being shunned by the community, Hélène is kept sane by believing that her redemption can only come from revealing to her son Osvald the truth about his father.

Now aged 25, Osvald (Felix Malcolm), who has been in Paris studying painting and leading a raucous life, returns home. Osvald is quite a sick and weak man who cannot work, which gives his mother someone to smother with affection in her loveless life. Hélène is now a hardened stern woman, but with a modern progressive attitude. During her life of abuse, she has protected her son Osvald from the truth about his father’s private life.

The local priest, Pastor Manders (Grant Malcolm) has known Hélène since their childhood days. He is fretful about his reputation and fixated even fanatical with the declining morality of his parishioners.

Regine (Connie Wetherilt) is Mrs. Alving’s shy and obedient teenage maid. Regine is the daughter of the alcoholic carpenter, Jakob Engstrand (Zane Alexander) whose ambition is to build and run, a seafarers’ mission. Regine takes immense pride in working for the Alvings, with her love for Osvald being her main attraction.

Could there possibly be a marriage or two?

The costumes by Michelle Sharp were stunning. From Mrs Alving’s opulent widow’s weeds, Osvald’s tailcoat, cravat and silk burgundy waistcoat the maid’s dress and apron, the pastor’s liturgical garments – a very smart cassock and Jakob’s flat cap and working clothes. Michelle always takes extra time to select the correct garment for the era and social standing

Over the years Osvald has been played by Kevin Spacey and Mrs Alving by Judi Dench and Uma Thurman.

Now young director Thomas Dimmick has really conquered a very richly written script, with its numerous twists on every page that gives us a surprise look into the private lives in the Norwegian village. ‘Under Milkwood’ in Norway!! By selecting a very experienced cast, all of whom have been nominated or won acting awards, the chemistry between the characters was at time explosive. Grant’s pastor who genuinely cared but was unwavering in his staunch beliefs. Natalie’s complex moods, relief at losing an abusive husband, intense maternal love for her son and still having to retain a stiff upper lip in public. Felix gave a superb performance as he breaks down with worry. Even sweet Regine states her mind about life and her well-meaning but insipid father (Zane).

A very tricky play to present, but totally captured by a great cast and strong direction.
This is not a weird foreign play. It is complex but easy to follow and packed with interesting situations. A must see.