Maggie McCarthy as the housekeeper with Carli Norrisas the Governess and Michael Hanratty and Annabel Smith as the children. Picture: Robert Workman

Turn Of The Screw

Malvern Theatres


Henry James’ gothic horror story has been adapted for stage and screen many times, but a new tour is now seeing a return of the historic thriller.

Wolverhampton Grand Theatre and Mercury Theatre Colchester have teamed up with Dermot McLaughlin Productions to create a simplified version of the ghost story with just four actors playing all the parts.

While the novella is known for creating suspense, immense creepiness and confusion for the reader, the main aspect this adaptation by Tim Luscombe achieves is unfortunately confusion.

This is mainly because the actors playing the children - Annabel Smith and Michael Hanratty - double up as ghosts and other key characters, so it’s not easy to follow which character they are supposed to be all the time. That said, they both give energetic, impressive performances but the adaptation doesn’t make all the reveal moments particularly clear, raising more questions than it answers.

Carli Norris plays the Victorian Governess caring for two children at a remote estate who becomes convinced that the grounds are haunted.

In flashbacks, she clearly narrates what happened to her in the first job of her career.

Finally, there’s well known Maggie McCarthy, recognisable from films and shows like Angela’s Ashes, Call The Midwife and Calendar Girls, as the housekeeper. She proves to be a safe pair of hands on stage and emits a warmth and vitality from her character.

While the opening scene is one of the strongest with an uneasy tension, this doesn’t continue for long and the story becomes more of a gentle mystery than horror, never bringing any real fear to the stage.

It could also have done with using more special effects and trickery to bring a sense of edginess to the production.

A few years ago, I saw a tour for The Woman In Black that also used a small cast. In comparison, that worked extremely well and had real jump in your seat moments.

This production is a sound, interesting and short new adaptation of the famous story at just shy of two hours. For those expecting to be left chilled with fear, they may feel a little disappointed. To 31-03-18

Alison Brinkworth


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