Saturday, 12 June 2021

Bare bones approach to ghost classic pays off handsomely

Bare bones approach to ghost classic pays off handsomely

The Turn of the Screw | Theatre Royal, Windsor | Tuesday, March 13

SPOOKY flashes, mysterious figures in black and a gothic stage setting all served to give us the heebie-jeebies in this Victorian ghost story.

Adapted from the novella by Henry James, Tim Luscombe has stripped it down to the bare bones beyond the unreliable narrator to give us a tale of mystery, intrigue, melodrama and imaginings.

An experienced governess, keen to secure a new post when being interviewed by Mrs Conray, is taken aback when things take on a more interrogative tone and she finds herself under scrutiny.

Casting her mind back, she revisits the unsettling events of the past, in her early days as a governess in charge of orphans, Flora and Miles, in a remote country mansion called Bly, with housekeeper Mrs Grose assisting.

Appointed by a gentleman on whom she seems to have formed a mad crush, and under strict instruction never to trouble him, there appears to be more to Bly than meets the eye.

Carli Norris took us back and forth in time in a very economical fashion as the governess who cared passionately for her charges while trying to figure out what was haunting them all.

All the cast made it easy to read this effective time-travelling, with wonderful depictions of the tempestuous children by Annabel Smith and Michael Hanratty.

Maggie McCarthy as Mrs Grose brought an authenticity, grounding and some exposition to the history of the house and its puzzling events.

The stage furniture accentuated this, with a rocking chair, a rocking horse and a bedstead against a jagged-edge, wooden backdrop and bleak, sombre lighting.

This was amplified by the use of an oil lamp and plenty of chilling music and other sounds.

As events unravelled, there were many elements of mystery, as to whether the governess was something of a repressed spinster, letting her thoughts and suspicions spiral out of control into a form of madness, or whether there were darker forces at work.

So while we may have been left scratching our heads to an extent, the depiction was pitch perfect.

Until Saturday.

Natalie Aldred

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