REVIEW: The Turn of The Screw at New Theatre Royal, Portsmouth

A scene from The Turn of The Screw. Picture by Robert Workman.
A scene from The Turn of The Screw. Picture by Robert Workman.
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A SINISTER, veiled woman in black. A menacing silhouette. The discordant notes of a child’s toy.

Such are the simple effects which add real chills to The Turn of the Screw at Portsmouth’s New Theatre Royal.

A well-crafted set and four cast members are all it takes to bring Henry James’ ‘classic ghost story’ alive. The premise is straightforward, a governess is quizzed – or is it interrogated? – about her time caring for two orphaned children in Bly, a seemingly idyllic country house.

Tim Luscombe’s atmospheric adaption switches between the present and the past and, as the second act builds to its dramatic conclusion, leaves you grappling with just what is the truth behind the troubled ghosts of Peter Quint and Miss Jessel.

Are these ghosts real or are the shadowy figures the neurotic imaginings of the governess? And are the orphans really the innocents they would like you to believe? To add to the disquieting drama, throughout there lingers a disturbing undertone of sexual desire. It takes you to the last scene to finally reveal the truth… or does it? I’m still not sure!

The Governess is played to perfection by Carli Norris. Annabel Smith handles her dual role with aplomb as she switches between the accusatory Mrs Conray and the sweet and sugary Flora while Michael Hanratty openly seduces the governess as the uncle and then grapples with the mixed-up emotions of Miles. While the plot wraps itself around these characters, Maggie McCarthy was superb as housekeeper Mrs Grose providing simplicity to the madness (or not?!) unfolding before her and injecting a couple of brief comedy moments in to the scenes.

Deeply disturbing and ambiguous, seeing is surely believing? But having seen The Turn of the Screw you have to draw your own conclusions as to who you believe.

Until Saturday. For tickets and timings go to newtheatreroyal.com

MARK WALDRON