Ghosts, Octagon, Bolton 30/10/09

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THE Sins of the Fathers (Part Two) - "just when you thought it was safe to go back in the drawing room!"

That could well be the 'trailer' for this venue's second play in a duet devoted to the damage done by dads.

Last month it was Arthur Miller's All My Sons; this time it is Ibsen's over-wrought domestic drama, a work that still has the ability to shock and disturb an audience nearly 130 years after it was first staged.

Both plays are unabashed party pieces from the Octagon's new artistic director David Thacker, and why not? His past experience – in directing the likes of Vanessa Redgrave and Tom Wilkinson in a landmark production of Ghosts – shines through in this slow-burning and assured new version.

There's further continuity provided here, with four of the cast from All My Sons taking the principal roles in Ghosts.

George Irving becomes the pious Pastor Manders, in a particularly subdued and almost sympathetic styling of Ibsen's arch hypocrite.

Thacker's wife Margot Leicester is a hugely-convincing Mrs Alving, the compromised and compromising matriarch anxious to preserve some family dignity, if not reputation.

Oscar Pearce might regard himself almost fated, in both plays, to become the son scarred by a father's sins. It is another intensely-moving portrayal from this talented actor.

Vanessa Kirby, whose stage debut here last month earned plaudits, polishes her CV even further in the role of Regina Engstrand.

Patrick Connellan's set design is used in both productions, to convey yet another family home built not just on sand, but floating above it.

This time, though, the characters haunted by Ghosts spar around a huge table, a piece of furniture transformed into a domestic battleground.

Pull up a seat before November 21.