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Stage Dragon Review: Turn Of The Screw, At The Yvonne Arnaud Theatre

Published on: 25 Apr, 2018
Updated on: 25 Apr, 2018

by Tricia Marcotti

Henry James’ novella, The Turn of the Screw, is currently on tour throughout the UK and now at the Yvonne Arnaud until Saturday, April 28.

It has been beautifully adapted for the stage by Tim Luscombe on behalf of Dermot McLaughlin, Mercury Theatre Colchester and the Wolverhampton Grand Theatre.

As I looked at the stage when I took my seat in the auditorium, I had a vague feeling of disquiet. However, it wasn’t until the second act that I realised it was the set which was causing these feelings.

Turn of the Screw at the Yvonne Arnaud with Carli Norris, as the governess, agonising over writing to the master. (Photo credit Robert Workman).

The human brain likes things to be orderly and the stage set is deliberately off kilter. While knowing that the play is set in pre-electricity times, I felt that more light onstage would have allowed me to make more sense of the setting.

But, as it is a ghost story, less light adds to the scariness!

One could debate the ghosts versus psychological ramblings of the main character and still come to no conclusion at the end of the story or play, but that is exactly what Henry James and Tim Luscombe want their audience to do.

It was not always easy to follow the time shift in the presentation of the play, in fact it was into the second act before I finally got to grips with what was happening now and what had happened in the past.

Given the subject matter, I don’t know what the writer Tim Luscombe and the director Daniel Buckroyd could have done to make it easier to follow from the beginning.

Turn of the Screw at the Yvonne Arnaud. From left: Carli Norris, Annabel Smith, Maggie McCarthy, and Michael Hanratty (Photo credit Robert Workman).

Carli Norris, as the governess, has a huge job. She is forced to confront her recollections of her first ever governess position by one of her charges from that time. As she rarely leaves the stage, even when not speaking, she has a great presence on the stage.

Annabel Smith, as Mrs Conray, was convincing as a woman wanting to know about her past, and yet unwilling to see it from another’s point of view. She managed the transition from woman of today to child of the past by becoming one, with all the childish antics that entailed.

I especially liked the glimpses of the pantaloons while she played as a child!

Maggie McCarthy, as Mrs Grose, only appears as part of the retelling, but nonetheless has a major part to play. She gives credence to the story being told by the governess.

The final role, or I should say, roles, is/are performed by Michael Hanratty. He plays the master – who hires the governess all those years ago, the young boy Miles, and Peter Quint, the master’s valet.

As the master, he was very engaging and it was easy to see how a parson’s daughter from the country could have her head turned by him. As the boy Miles, he was disturbing, and as the valet, Peter Quint, he was intimidating.

This is a thought-provoking evening of entertainment that even those who do not like ghost stories could view without being too scared to walk home after.

You can book tickets online or call the Yvonne Arnaud box office on 01483 44 00 00.

 

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