Tag Archives: The Turn of the Screw

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 Turn of the Screw – 4 Stars


The Turn of the Screw

Omnibus Theatre

Reviewed – 8th December 2017


“a piece of theatre which is both hauntingly familiar yet timeless”


Henry James’ The Turn of the Screw, first published in 1897, is a story that captures the zeitgeist of the late 19th Century. An era charmed by superstition, madness, and the early writings of Sigmund Freud, James’ novella is a tale of a house held together by belief, seduction, and childhood secrets. An unnamed governess travels to a country house to take care of two children, Flora and Miles, but soon shadows from the past return to disturb the idyllic setting.


Jeffrey Hatcher’s excellent adaptation, Directed by James O’Donnell, draws on the universal themes of innocence and corruption, and childhood terrors, creating a piece of theatre which is both hauntingly familiar yet timeless. On entering Omnibus Theatre’s intimate black box space the audience is confronted with a lone wingbacked armchair and a bookcase of old tomes, the set of all good storytelling, instantly drawing the audience in and setting the moody tone of the piece. The style of this minimalist set (Paul Lloyd), combined with simple yet sympathetic spotlighting (Simon Gethin Thomas), is sensitive to the era and allows focus for the naturalistic performances to shine through.

This two-hander is performed by Ruth Ollman, playing the Governess, and Nick Danan who skilfully takes on the roles of Master, Housekeeper, and the child Miles. Ollman gives a strong yet understated performance, lending the Governess a captivating and curious stillness. Despite scenes of heightened emotionality she never loses the audience by venturing into the realms of melodrama. Danan is mesmerising to watch, flawlessly flitting between the sweet and retiring Housekeeper and the seemingly sinister Miles, providing the audience with genuine chills. These transitions allow for the suspense to build and for tensions to be broken, giving the audience fleeting moments of psychological relief. The pair’s ability to add flashes of humour also provides contrast and lightness to this otherwise dark and troubling tale. Despite a few fumbled lines both actors gave compelling performances, using James’ lyrical language and a diary entry structure to lead the audience seamlessly through the twisted plot.

With a timeless tale, subtle staging and captivating performances, Strange Fish Theatre Company have produced a wickedly good yarn for modern day audiences.


Reviewed by Matthew Arthur

Photography by Simon Gethin Thomas


Omnibus Theatre


The Turn of the Screw

is at the Omnibus Theatre until 16th December



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