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

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
Feeling all at sea: Barbara's 18-year-old son came under the influence of a Canadian libertarian preacher – and she had to fight to win him back
TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Living the high life: Anne Robinson enjoys some skip-surfed soup
TV review
Arts and Entertainment

Great British Bake Off
Arts and Entertainment
Doctor Who and Missy in the Doctor Who series 8 finale

TV
Arts and Entertainment

film
Arts and Entertainment
Chvrches lead singer Lauren Mayberry in the band's new video 'Leave a Trace'

music
Arts and Entertainment

music
Arts and Entertainment
Home on the raunch: George Bisset (Aneurin Barnard), Lady Seymour Worsley (Natalie Dormer) and Richard Worsley (Shaun Evans)

TV review
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Strictly Come Dancing was watched by 6.9m viewers

Strictly
Arts and Entertainment
NWA biopic Straight Outta Compton

film
Arts and Entertainment
Natalie Dormer as Margaery Tyrell and Lena Headey as Cersei Lannister in Game of Thrones

Game of Thrones
Arts and Entertainment
New book 'The Rabbit Who Wants To Fall Asleep' by Carl-Johan Forssen Ehrlin

books
Arts and Entertainment
Calvi is not afraid of exploring the deep stuff: loneliness, anxiety, identity, reinvention
music
Arts and Entertainment
Edinburgh solo performers Neil James and Jessica Sherr
comedy
Arts and Entertainment
If a deal to buy tBeats, founded by hip-hop star Dr Dre (pictured) and music producer Jimmy Iovine went through, it would be Apple’s biggest ever acquisition

album review
Arts and Entertainment
Paloma Faith is joining The Voice as a new coach

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Dowton Abbey has been pulling in 'telly tourists', who are visiting Highclere House in Berkshire

TV
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Patriot games: Vic Reeves featured in ‘Very British Problems’
TV review
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

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

    Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

    How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

    Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
    Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

    'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

    In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea
    Tunisia fears its Arab Spring could be reversed as the new regime becomes as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor

    The Arab Spring reversed

    Tunisian protesters fear that a new law will whitewash corrupt businessmen and officials, but they are finding that the new regime is becoming as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor
    King Arthur: Legendary figure was real and lived most of his life in Strathclyde, academic claims

    Academic claims King Arthur was real - and reveals where he lived

    Dr Andrew Breeze says the legendary figure did exist – but was a general, not a king
    Who is Oliver Bonas and how has he captured middle-class hearts?

    Who is Oliver Bonas?

    It's the first high-street store to pay its staff the living wage, and it saw out the recession in style
    Earth has 'lost more than half its trees' since humans first started cutting them down

    Axe-wielding Man fells half the world’s trees – leaving us just 422 each

    However, the number of trees may be eight times higher than previously thought
    60 years of Scalextric: Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones

    60 years of Scalextric

    Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones
    Theme parks continue to draw in thrill-seekers despite the risks - so why are we so addicted?

    Why are we addicted to theme parks?

    Now that Banksy has unveiled his own dystopian version, Christopher Beanland considers the ups and downs of our endless quest for amusement
    Tourism in Iran: The country will soon be opening up again after years of isolation

    Iran is opening up again to tourists

    After years of isolation, Iran is reopening its embassies abroad. Soon, there'll be the chance for the adventurous to holiday there
    10 best PS4 games

    10 best PS4 games

    Can’t wait for the new round of blockbusters due out this autumn? We played through last year’s offering
    Transfer window: Ten things we learnt

    Ten things we learnt from the transfer window

    Record-breaking spending shows FFP restraint no longer applies
    Migrant crisis: UN official Philippe Douste-Blazy reveals the harrowing sights he encountered among refugees arriving on Lampedusa

    ‘Can we really just turn away?’

    Dead bodies, men drowning, women miscarrying – a senior UN figure on the horrors he has witnessed among migrants arriving on Lampedusa, and urges politicians not to underestimate our caring nature
    Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger as Isis ravages centuries of history

    Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger...

    ... and not just because of Isis vandalism
    Girl on a Plane: An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack

    Girl on a Plane

    An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack
    Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

    Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

    The author of 'The Day of the Jackal' has revealed he spied for MI6 while a foreign correspondent