Reviewed by Ann Durrell
The Turn of the Screw is an 1898 horror story by Henry James, both gothic fiction and a ghost story, the tale centres around a governess sent to the country to care for a young boy Miles and his sister Flora. This production by Opera North is a revival of Benjamin Britten’s classic horror.
The Governess travels to Bly, a country house in Essex where she is due to take up her new position. The Governess has been tasked to look after two young children on behalf of their guardian, who has made a strange request that she does not contact him under any circumstances. The journey is brought to life on stage where we see the back of the governess apparently in her carriage bouncing as the carriage makes it way along the road.
When she arrives, she meets the housekeeper Mrs Grose and then a letter is delivered that the young boy has been expelled from school. The ladies are both adamant that the children are angels who can do no wrong, but it is now that the story takes an altogether more sinister direction. The Governess sees a man through the window, Mrs Grose explains it must be Peter Quinn, valet to the children guardian who died in a fall the year before. Later by the lake Flora is playing when the Governess see an apparition of the children’s former governess Miss Jessel who had a relationship with Peter Quinn before he abandoned her whilst she carried his child. The Governess becomes convinced that the ghosts have a hold over the children and that they are somehow being controlled. Miles’ behaviour in particular becomes more and more strange and the performance ensues.
The set design by Madeleine Boyd is superbly spooky. The lighting enables the cast to create shadows, at one point Miles is wearing an animal mask and the shadow projects the impression of the monster he may have inside him. When Quint (Nicolas Watts) appears in an oversized window to the side of the stage, his magnified shadow is oppressive and intimidating. Miss Jessel (Eleanor Dennis) appears like a mix of the lady from the Japanese horror films ‘The Ring’ and the Woman in Black. They are really pretty scary!
Sarah Tynan takes on the role of the Governess. Her performance perfectly portrays the young woman, torn between her desire to fulfil the request of her employer whilst trying to make sense of what is happening around her. You can almost feel her angst projected across the audience.
Tim Gasiorek is an excellent Miles, with a face of pure innocence and a beautiful voice he leads you into the false hope that he is good, and the events happening around him surely cannot be at his doing. Jennifer Clark as Flora leave you guessing, is she involved or an innocent bystander? Could she be covering for her brother, or is she in cahoots with the ghost of Miss Jessel? Clark is an excellent talent with an excellent vocal talent.
Opera North’s Turn of the Screw is well worth going to see.
Opera North’s The Turn of the Screw is currently on tour around the UK, for more information visit www.operanorth.co.uk.
For other shows at The Lowry in Manchester visit www.thelowry.com or call the box office on 0843 208 6000.
The Lowry, Pier 8, Salford Quays, Manchester, M50 3AZ | 0843 208 6000