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Turn Of The Screw, Wolverhampton Grand Theatre - review with pictures

By Alison Norton | Theatre & Comedy | Published:

Having never seen Turn of the Screw before, my research prior to seeing the production led me to believe it would be a truly haunting, troubling experience; in fact, everything a disturbing ghost story should be.

Full Company - Turn of the Screw - Photo by Robert Workman

And I am glad to say I was not disappointed.

Wolverhampton Grand Theatre, which will celebrate its 125th anniversary next year, is the perfect setting for this atmospheric production, creating feelings which send shivers down your spine and leaves you glancing over your shoulder.

Writer Henry James is best known for his period drama pieces, and this dark tale, directed by Daniel Buckroyd, is without doubt one of his finest.

A governess is forced to relive eerie memories from her past when she is expected to account for the death of a child previously in her care. Did she fall foul of evil apparitions? Are there such things as ghosts and did her pupils see them too? Lots of questions, but who is answering them truthfully?

Annabel Smith - Turn of the Screw - Photo by Robert Workman

Adapted for the stage by Tim Luscombe, this latest production lays claim to the fact that it was the original inspiration for Susan Hill’s The Woman in Black, which has gone on to enjoy worldwide recognition.

Turn of the Screw, however, is equally distressing and exceptionally thought-provoking, but the conclusion is not nearly as clear. That may be frustrating for some, but pleasure comes from the storyline and the chance to decide the outcome for yourself.

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Four exceptionally talented, versatile cast members play a variety of roles, all offering superb dramatic performances.

I have to admit that I am not a fan of adults playing children unless it is in a comedic setting, but Annabel Smith as Mrs Conray, and Flora and Michael Hanratty as The Man and her brother Miles, move seamlessly from character to character. Children are often associated with the macabre and the atmosphere they create is nothing short of chilling.

Michael Hanratty and Annabel Smith - Turn of the Screw - Photo by Robert Workman

That said, in act two, with the introduction of the ghosts, the switching between characters does become slightly muddy and requires stronger concentration to make sure you understand exactly who is who at certain points in the proceedings.

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There is a wonderfully seasoned performance from Maggie McCarthy as Mrs Grose, who portrays the elderly housekeeper, anxious to remain loyal to her employer. She perfectly interpreted the role, offering the warmth and motherly instinct the children crave, while on the other hand trying to understand the neurotic imagination of the governess.

Carli Norris offered a stand-out performance as the governess, a woman sexually repressed to the point of madness; perfectly portraying her as someone whose imagination is running away with her, as she sees the ghosts of predecessor and the evil Peter Quint.

Michael Hanratty and Carli Norris - Turn of the Screw - Photo by Robert Workman

Together, designer Sara Perks and lighting designer Matt Leventhall, created the perfect setting for this ethereal piece, with atmospheric effects throughout and the clever use of props to move from scene to scene.

Composer and sound designer John chambers completed the picture with eerie, original music and effective, unexpected outcries which rip through the darkness.

Another successful collaboration for co-producers, Wolverhampton Grand Theatre, together with Dermot McLaughlin Productions and the Mercury Theatre, Colchester, and thoroughly entertaining, despite the somewhat odd ending and a sense of definite unease; but then that is just what a ghostly tale sets out to achieve.

Runs until Saturday. 01902 429212 or www.grandtheatre.co.uk for tickets.

Alison Norton

By Alison Norton
@AlisonNorton

Theatre critic and unofficial 'am dram queen' for the Express & Star and Shropshire Star

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