The ghost worlds of J. M. Barrie and Tom Stoppard

John Lahr in The New Yorker:

Screenhunter_01_mar_15_0012Can we agree that we’re all haunted? The ghost world is part of our world. We carry within us the good and the bad, the spoken and the unspoken imperatives of our missing loved ones. As children, we are dreamed up by our parents; as adults, when our parents die we dream them up in turn. Conversations rarely stop at the grave. So, when we encounter ghosts onstage, they both terrify and compel us; within their trapped energy is an echo of our own unresolved losses. Ghosts must be banished, in order to get rid of their aggression toward the living and our aggression toward them for having left us. In the theatre, ghosts are traditionally agents either of tragic provocation (the ghost of Hamlet’s father) or of comic persecution (Elvira in Noël Coward’s “Blithe Spirit”); in Tina Landau’s clever and stimulating revival of J. M. Barrie’s 1920 play “Mary Rose” (at the Vineyard), however, the ghost turns out to be a catalyst for autobiographical repair.

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