Review: Ghosts (Sydney University Dramatic Society)

suds1Venue: University of Sydney Studio B (Camperdown NSW), May 14 – 24, 2014
Director: Finn Davis
Playwright: Henrik Ibsen, adapted by Monisha Rudhran
Actors: Diana Reid, Sean Maroney, Myles Gutkin, Ella Parkes-Talbot, Joshua Free
Image by Matthew Webb

Theatre review
This work is an experimentation in naturalist acting. The actors have absorbed Henrik Ibsen’s script and they present on stage a performance that is best described as muted. It is a young team of artists, and their lack of experience is apparent. Their portrayals might work with a camera capturing close ups for the screen, but within the conventions of a live show, communication between stage and audience proves challenging. Plot details are often missed, and the narrative becomes unclear.

Atmospherics, however, are handled well by director Finn Davis. The bleakness being conveyed is severe, and tragically beautiful. Music and sound design by Josie Gibson and Jack Frerer is sensitive and innovative. Kryssa Karavolas’ set design steals the show with its transformation of the usually unimpressive Studio B into something almost majestic in its vision. The backdrop is a Georgia O’Keeffe inspired mural that sits perfectly in the two-storey high construction, and provides a visually stunning element to the show’s conclusion.

Ibsen’s work is about concepts that endure as long as humankind exists. Ghosts is concerned with taboos, morality and our social constructs. It discusses sex from a context that has thankfully evolved over time, but the strength of the master’s writing does not wane. It does however, require maturity and wisdom to help its words speak to audiences of our contemporary cultures. There will never be a time when Ibsen becomes irrelevant, and every production that comes along should be greeted with support and enthusiasm.