English-language theatre: Facing the ghosts of the past – a new production by the Bonn Players

English-language theatre : Facing the ghosts of the past – a new production by the Bonn Players

The Bonn Players are holding final rehearsals for their latest production of Ghosts, to be shown at the Brotfabrik in Beuel from 12th to 16th November.

The Bonn Players’ latest production of Ghosts by Norwegian playwright Henrik Ibsen was met with shock and horror when it premiered in 1882. The play’s discussion of taboo topics including incest, syphilis and euthanasia outraged early audiences and led to a ban of public performances in England. In their production of Richard Eyre’s award-winning adaption that was first staged in London in 2013, the Bonn Players give the play a chilling new life.

“The play is actually the story of a strong woman,” explains Tracy Tollmann who plays the lead female character Helen Alving. Suffering in her marriage to an alcoholic womaniser, Helene has always seen herself as the victim. When her son was seven years old, Helene sent him away to Paris in an effort to protect him from his father’s influence. Although outwardly charming and respected, Captain Alving is aggressive and unfaithful to Helene. He fathers an illegitimate daughter following an affair with the family’s maid. Helene leads an unhappy and lonely life, covering up her husband’s secret behaviour.

Even after his death, she is never really free of the ghosts of her oppressive marriage. Her son Oswald, played by Nikesh Trecarten, is now an adult and returns home, but soon Helene learns that her beloved son has some secrets of his own. Despite being afraid of the ghosts in her life, Helene courageously faces up to her past. She decides to finally tell Oswald the truth about his father and to redefine her life.

"Ghosts is the story of a woman who has long suffered from the conservative values of society," says director Mike Asiago. “Ibsen calls these conservative values into question and opens up a place for judgement outside of the social confinements” he explains. “In the late 19th century, the play broke the boundaries of morality. Today, people are more open to some of the issues raised, even if they are still controversial.

Ultimately, Helene has a difficult decision to make, which some people still have to face today.” Up to now, the Bonn Players have tended to put on comedies; Ghosts is the first more serious play to be performed by the group. "Theatre isn't always about having a good laugh,” Mike Asiago says, “it also makes a stand for the things that really matter.”

The Bonn Players have been rehearsing the play three times a week since August at the Independent Bonn International School (IBIS) on the Heiderhof. “It’s difficult to find somewhere with the space we need to practice”, says Tracy Tollmann, “so we are very grateful to the IBIS for allowing us to rehearse here.” As well as putting on two productions a year, the Bonn Players hold other theatrical events for their members such as readings, workshops, participation in the Bonn Theaternacht as well as social gatherings.

“We are trying to increase our membership,” explains Tracy, “and we are always looking for new members to join us.” As well as acting, there are many ways to get involved backstage, for example with costumes, make-up, lighting or sound.

For a glimpse behind the scenes of Ghosts, the Bonn Players are showing a series of short videos on their Facebook page including interviews with the stage manager and costume designer working on the production.

Ghosts opens at the Brotfabrik in Bonn Beuel on Tuesday 12th November and runs until Saturday 16th November. The show starts at 8pm during the week and at 6pm on Saturday. Running time is approximately 100 minutes. After the performances on Tuesday and Wednesday, a Q&A session with the cast and crew offers a chance to learn more about the production and the group. Tickets are available at the Bonn Players’ online box office (https://www.bonnplayers.de/tickets-2/) and cost 20 EUR for adults and 18 EUR for students (opening night special 18 EUR for adults and 15 EUR for students).

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