It is generally agreed the the 1961 film ‘The Innocents’ is one of the most frightening of all ghost stories, based on the classic Henry James novel ‘The Turn of the Screw’, the story of a governess who may, or may not be seeing malevolent ghosts is thought provoking, chilling, and ultimately unexplained. Now the story is chilling audiences at the Wolverhampton Grand with a satisfying new adaptation that has all the menace and lack of answers as the original.
The Governess (a fabulous Carli Norris) is engaged to look after two orphans by their uncle, with the clear instructions that she is totally responsible for their care and is not to bother him with any problems. She goes to Bly House to meet her charges, Flora, a bright and spirited young girl, and her brother, the charming Miles, who was at Boarding School but has been expelled for reasons unknown. Within a short while of being at the house, the Governess is haunted by the spectre of a man who she feels is evil personified. Describing the man to the housekeeper she is told he fits the description of Peter Quint, a former valet who died the previous year. This is followed by visitations from another ghost, this one a woman who may be her predecessor Miss Jessel. It emerges that Miss Jessel was in a sexual relationship with Peter Quint, something the children may have been exposed to. As the visitations and sightings become more frequent, the Governess comes to the conclusion that the children are seeing them too, and that they are in danger. But is this all real, or are the ghosts just in the mind of the governess?
As the Governess, Carli Norris is fabulous. We see two contrasting performances, the older governess trying to explain what happened all those years ago, but wracked with pain and tension, and the younger governess who started out idealistic and in control, but descends (maybe) into the realms of obsession and madness. It is a powerful performance that commands the stage (she is in every scene.)
Annabel Smith is also very impressive as Mrs Conray, who turns out to be a grown up Flora. She commands the stage as she switches effortlessly from the fairly menacing adult version of Flora, to the sweet, joyful younger self. It is a stunning transformation and works perfectly. The cast is rounded out by Maggie McCarthy as the housekeeper Mrs Grose, majestic in keeping the story flowing and filling in the gaps in our knowledge, and Michael Hanratty who plays the male roles, including a powerful, heartbreaking performance as Miles.
The staging of the play, on a single set, gives it an atmosphere of claustrophobia and helps to raise the tension. The sudden drop into darkness add to the air of general menace, and the ending, where the ends are not quite tied up, and much is still unexplained, is satisfying and unexpected.
Go see, but don’t expect to sleep well afterwards.
Turn of the Screw
Until 14 April, Click here for ticket information