Tag Archives: Annabel Smith

The Turn of the Screw – 3 Stars


The Turn of the Screw

Colchester Mercury

Reviewed – 8th March 2018


“subtle layering of shadows and downlights gave a real boost to the overall gothic and insidious feel of the play”


Tim Luscombe’s take on Turn of the Screw is a lesson in well considered casting and tight production values. From the outset there is a distinct sense of unease, begun with the skewed set frame and followed through into the opening scene of increasingly uncomfortable conversation between the two most prominent cast members – Carli Norris as The Governess and Annabel Smith as ‘Mrs Conray’. What follows is a twisting tale of death and mystery told to examine the concept of what it is to be truly haunted.

Carli Norris is a solid leading lady, flowing well between the nuances of a demure and well intentioned governess to the unhinged but doting companion of two apparently disturbed children.

Annabel Smith was quite perfect in jumping between the aspects of her character, which could have easily become a messy portrayal of a girl at different points of her life but her performance was absorbing and very precisely defined. She was equally irritating, masterful, childish and cruel, and instrumental in holding together the leaps of the narrative between past and present with impeccable physical cues as well as her dialogue.

Michael Hanratty, billed initially as merely ‘The Man’ also turns out a well thought performance that made uncomfortable watching if only because his convincing childishness felt decidedly squeamish from an adult player – which of course was the point a lot of the time. Maggie McCarthy tied up the cast in a somewhat stereotypical role of good-old-working-class-woman-of-certain-age that was predictable but nonetheless well delivered.

It was no surprise to see a long list of classical theatre credits after the name of Matt Leventhall, the Lighting Designer, who deserves special mention. Although there are obvious bangs and jumps and sudden lights out moments to keep the audience jumping, the more subtle layering of shadows and downlights gave a real boost to the overall gothic and insidious feel of the play throughout to the point that one felt both relieved and over exposed when it was time for the house lights to come back up.

It really is all very well done, which makes me regret having to say that I think this might be a production recommended for genre fans only. I haven’t read Turn of the Screw, nor seen any of its Hollywood outings and I’m left with the feeling that this production was brought together by a team who adore the source material but have failed to make it entirely accessible via this play alone. Nothing in the telling is unclear, however. The premise and the action and the prescribed twist are all quite plainly there but it all fell a little bit flat, taking something of a downward turn not long into the second act.

I feel I was missing something, some greater understanding of the story or perhaps more of the time that it comes from. I love a period drama, but there needs to be something fundamentally relatable to really bring all of the stiff old fashioned costumes and storm tossed country estates to life for me, and I suspect that had I read the Henry James novella I might have found it easier to immerse myself in this play. As such I’m not sure in summary if I was disappointed in the production, or disappointed in myself for not being more well prepared to enjoy it!


Reviewed by Jenna Barton

Photography by Robert Workman


The Turn of the Screw

Colchester Mercury until 10th March then touring



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Review of The Dark Room – 5 Stars


The Dark Room

Theatre 503

Reviewed – 13th November 2017


“raises issues that are still prevalent today and are much closer to home”


There’s something sinister about quiet, shabby motel rooms. Something lonely, something that’s not quite right. They are the sort of places you may end up in when there are no options left. Angela Betzien’s work left me utterly heartbroken, her interweaving storylines reuniting to form a completely tragic story.

We meet three sets of characters: troubled, erratic and suicidal young Grace and her carer Anni, policeman Stephen with his pregnant wife Emma and lastly Stephen’s boss Craig who is joined by Joseph, a young man in a wedding dress. The production cleverly transitions between one group of characters and the next, never leaving the motel room. From the word go, everything moves very fast.

During the opening scene we are left desperately guessing why the young woman in front of us insists on wearing a bag over her head, yelling at her companion – and why does she hide a kitchen knife under the mattress? Has she been abducted? Is she safe?

Annabel Smith (Grace) truly encapsulates a young woman with many, many demons and a lot of internal suffering. From her emotional bitterness to her physical violence, Grace’s character is unpredictable and at times very frightening. Smith fills the audience with unease, we really don’t know where her mood will take us next.

Both Stephen (Tamlyn Henderson) and Craig (Alasdair Craig) move about the stage in a guilty, secretive bubble of awkwardness. Which one of them has done something unspeakable? Perhaps the ghost of the young man in the wedding dress has something to do with it.

The eerie lighting (Will Monks) added a touch of horror – I have lost count of the amount of scary movies that take place in similar hotels – and during the scenes where we are plunged into darkness, we can only speculate as to what awaits when the lights come up.

With a pleasingly shabby motel set by Jemima Robinson and smooth direction from Audrey Sheffield, The Dark Room is a thrilling eye-opener. It may be based on Australia’s shadowy history of ill treatment of its own society’s most vulnerable, but it raises issues that are still prevalent today and are much closer to home .

Reviewed by Stephanie Legg

Photography by Alex Brenner




is at Theatre 503 until 2nd December



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