Time the great healer

THEATRE: Ghosts / The Winter's Tale; Lyric Hammersmith

Sunny Sicily and rainy Norway. Geographically, the settings for Method and Madness's double-bill of Ibsen's Ghosts and The Winter's Tale could not be more different. Thematically, however, there's a logic to the pairing. Each of them is concerned with how time can heal or open a wound, and in both works the sins of the fathers are visited upon the children and wives. Of course, the tones of the two plays differ enormously. The Winter's Tale is a story of redemption tinged by loss, while Ghosts foregrounds the despair. It's the difference between sunny spells with showers and the briefest break in the rain.

It rains a lot in Mike Alfreds's production of Ibsen's 1881 tragedy about a son who has inherited syphilis from his dead father, Alving, a man who was seen as a pillar of the community. Paul Dart's set adheres faithfully to Ibsen's original stage directions, with its conservatory at the back through whose windows can be seen a fjord half hidden by the downpour. Outside the weather changes to suit the mood. When the matriarch Fru Alving (Marty Cruickshank) recalls the night she fled her philandering husband and sought refuge with Pastor Manders, the sky turns soot-black.

Cruickshank's Fru Alving is not the spirited, glamorous widow of some productions of this play. When she jokes about being old, she looks old. Her hair, pulled back off her face, makes her look strained and tired, and she has little of the feistiness you might expect from someone of her unconventional views. There certainly doesn't seem to be any residual passion between her and Terence Wilton's excellent Pastor Manders. With his slicked-back, matinee-idol hair and granite jawline, this Manders looks a dead-ringer for Mr Rochester. When he opens his mouth, however, there's a touch of Alastair Sim about both his toothiness and his delivery.

Manders is a difficult role to play. He is the nearest thing Ghosts has to light relief, yet he's also Exhibit "A" in Ibsen's attack on the hypocrisy of Norwegian society. Wilton expertly walks the tightrope between comedy and tragedy.

Ibsen's play walks another kind of tightrope: between naturalism and expressionism. The playwright himself called it "a domestic drama in three acts". Mike Alfreds's production does the domestic bit well, yet that central, horrific symbol of disease never quite infects the imagination. The method is all right, but it could do with a little divine madness.

What Ghosts does for rain, The Winter's Tale does for beards. It boasts some very fine specimens: Abraham Lincoln lookalikes, nativity-play pharaohs, even one (the Old Shepherd's) that seems to have been made out of old bell ropes.They all look fake and they're all meant to look fake.

Faced with the challenge of doing The Winter's Tale with just seven actors, Alfreds has gone for a stripped-down faux-naif look. This is evident not just in the facial hair department, but also in the direction. Leontes' son Mamillius is played by an adult shuffling around on his knees. Several of the court scenes resemble the kind of biblical tableaux found on stained- glass windows. Father Time's monologue, in which he skips over 16 years, is shared out among the cast, several of whom put on their make-up in front of the audience (a device that Alfreds used regularly in his Shared Experience days).

There's nothing wrong with any of that in principle. The trouble is that the children's picture-book staging isn't matched by a childlike energy. Whether it's because the company is reaching the end of a long tour or because it happened to be a matinee, I don't know, but they looked tired. The panto-style bear that pursued Antigonus summed it up: it was definitely larger than life, but it lumbered awfully slowly.

In rep at the Lyric Hammersmith, London W6 (0181-741 2311). To 5 July Adrian Turpin

Arts and Entertainment
Art on their sleeves: before downloads and streaming, enthusiasts used to flick through racks of albums in their local record shops
musicFor Lois Pryce, working in a record shop was a dream job - until the bean counters ruined it
Arts and Entertainment
Serial suspect: the property heir charged with first-degree murder, Robert Durst
TV review
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

Arts and Entertainment
Igarashi in her

Art Megumi Igarashi criticises Japan's 'backwards' attitude to women's sexual expression

Arts and Entertainment
Could Ed Sheeran conquer the Seven Kingdoms? He could easily pass for a Greyjoy like Alfie Allen's character (right)

tv Singer could become the most unlikely star of Westeros

Arts and Entertainment
Beyonce, Boris Johnson, Putin, Nigel Farage, Russell Brand and Andy Murray all get the Spitting Image treatment from Newzoids
tvReview: The sketches need to be very short and very sharp as puppets are not intrinsically funny
Arts and Entertainment
Despite the controversy it caused, Mile Cyrus' 'Wrecking Ball' video won multiple awards
musicPoll reveals over 70% of the British public believe sexually explicit music videos should get ratings
Arts and Entertainment
Lena Headey as Cersei Lannister and Ian Beattie as Meryn Trant in the fifth season of Game of Thrones

Arts and Entertainment

book review
Arts and Entertainment
It's all in the genes: John Simm working in tandem with David Threlfall in 'Code of a Killer'

TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Far Right and Proud: Reggies Yates' Extreme Russia

TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Kanye West was mobbed in Armenia after jumping into a lake

Arts and Entertainment
The show suffers from its own appeal, being so good as to create an appetite in its viewers that is difficult to sate in a ten episode series

Game of Thrones reviewFirst look at season five contains some spoilers
Arts and Entertainment
Judi Dench and Kevin Spacey on the Red Carpet for 2015's Olivier Awards

Ray Davies' Sunny Afternoon scoops the most awards

Arts and Entertainment
Proving his metal: Ross Poldark (played by Aidan Turner in the BBC series) epitomises the risk-taking spirit of 18th-century mine owners

Poldark review
Arts and Entertainment
Eddie Redmayne is reportedly favourite to play Newt Scamander in Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them

Arts and Entertainment
Tom Hardy stars in dystopian action thriller Mad Max: Fury Road

Arts and Entertainment
Josh, 22, made his first million from the game MinoMonsters

Grace Dent

Channel 4 show proves there's no app for happiness
Disgraced Top Gear presenter Jeremy Clarkson
Arts and Entertainment
Game face: Zoë Kravitz, Bruce Greenwood and Ethan Hawke in ‘Good Kill’

film review

Arts and Entertainment
Living like there’s no tomorrow: Jon Hamm as Don Draper in the final season of ‘Mad Men’

TV review

  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Revealed: Why Mohammed Emwazi chose the 'safe option' of fighting for Isis, rather than following his friends to al-Shabaab in Somalia

    Why Mohammed Emwazi chose Isis

    His friends were betrayed and killed by al-Shabaab
    'The solution can never be to impassively watch on while desperate people drown'
An open letter to David Cameron: Building fortress Europe has had deadly results

    Open letter to David Cameron

    Building the walls of fortress Europe has had deadly results
    Tory candidates' tweets not as 'spontaneous' as they seem - you don't say!

    You don't say!

    Tory candidates' election tweets not as 'spontaneous' as they appear
    Mubi: Netflix for people who want to stop just watching trash

    So what is Mubi?

    Netflix for people who want to stop just watching trash all the time
    The impossible job: how to follow Kevin Spacey?

    The hardest job in theatre?

    How to follow Kevin Spacey
    Armenian genocide: To continue to deny the truth of this mass human cruelty is close to a criminal lie

    Armenian genocide and the 'good Turks'

    To continue to deny the truth of this mass human cruelty is close to a criminal lie
    Lou Reed: The truth about the singer's upbringing beyond the biographers' and memoirists' myths

    'Lou needed care, but what he got was ECT'

    The truth about the singer's upbringing beyond
    Migrant boat disaster: This human tragedy has been brewing for four years and EU states can't say they were not warned

    This human tragedy has been brewing for years

    EU states can't say they were not warned
    Women's sportswear: From tackling a marathon to a jog in the park, the right kit can help

    Women's sportswear

    From tackling a marathon to a jog in the park, the right kit can help
    Hillary Clinton's outfits will be as important as her policies in her presidential bid

    Clinton's clothes

    Like it or not, her outfits will be as important as her policies
    NHS struggling to monitor the safety and efficacy of its services outsourced to private providers

    Who's monitoring the outsourced NHS services?

    A report finds that private firms are not being properly assessed for their quality of care
    Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

    Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

    The Tory MP said he did not want to stand again unless his party's manifesto ruled out a third runway. But he's doing so. Watch this space
    How do Greek voters feel about Syriza's backtracking on its anti-austerity pledge?

    How do Greeks feel about Syriza?

    Five voters from different backgrounds tell us what they expect from Syriza's charismatic leader Alexis Tsipras
    From Iraq to Libya and Syria: The wars that come back to haunt us

    The wars that come back to haunt us

    David Cameron should not escape blame for his role in conflicts that are still raging, argues Patrick Cockburn
    Sam Baker and Lauren Laverne: Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

    Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

    A new website is trying to declutter the internet to help busy women. Holly Williams meets the founders