Another misapprehension is that Ibsen wrote "issue" plays. A Doll's House is supposedly "about" feminism, Hedda Gabler, the institution of marriage; An Enemy of the People, social conscience. Ghosts has more than its fair share of grand themes: past and present, truth and lies, even syphilis. Other directors have leaped to illustrate this with analogies around Aids, but Alfreds sees Ibsen as rooted in his period. If you don't show the society in which the characters live, "you end up with passionate subtext but none of the external pressures which produce it".
Alfreds has translated the play himself, working with a bilingual translator to create an initial, literal version of the text. "That way I learn what is a quote or a pun or a reference. If you use someone else's translation, you don't know what choices they've made."
For Alfreds, it's like reading a detective story, spending rehearsals looking for clues. And what have they discovered? "It's about how people lead their lives and the different level of lies they tell. The movement of the play is about revelation." Judging by his track record - he's the hot tip for Best Director in the Regional Theatre awards - it's not just the play which should prove a revelation.
EYE ON THE NEW
Wunderkind Mathew Warchus directs Yasmina Reza's fascinating European- wide smash-hit Art with the stellar cast of Tom Courtenay, Albert Finney and Ken Stott. Christopher Hampton's translation is typically smart and funny. A far safer bet than this week's revival of the overrated Mojo.
In preview, Wyndham's Theatre (0171-369 1736). Opens Tuesday 15 October.Reuse content