Returning with their second produced production, Wolverhampton Grand’s Turn of the Screw is a dark and suspenseful thriller that boasts impressive design and strong characterisation.
The classic 1898 American novella by Henry James has been adapted for the stage to tell the story of a Governess. She unexpectedly returns to the family she once worked with and is forced to tell the story of what happened to Mrs Conray, who is adamant to know what happened when her brother died many years ago. With loud bangs, striking lights and suspicious figures in the dark, the story unravels.
Known to have provided inspiration for the classic stage show The Woman in Black, director Daniel Buckroyd has excellently captured the sinister elements of the show through clever theatrical elements. The cast of four brings tremendous energy and characterisation to the production, giving it power and pace.
Annabel Smith plays the role of Mrs Conray and her younger self. It is impressive how Smith slips into each role, especially with the stark contrast between them. The uptight and heavily troubled Mrs Conray is portrayed excellently by Smith and we watch her character deteriorate as struggles to come to terms with what has happened. Similarly, as a young girl, we see her playful and charismatic persona with hints of mystery.
Both Michael Hanratty as the male figure of the house and young boy Miles similarly showcases his versatility as an actor as the ominous older man and curious young boy who warms to The Governess.
Daniel Buckroyd has directed the transitions superbly, as Mrs Conray’s character changes with the flick of a switch. This is enhanced by designer Sara Perks’ visually stunning set of a sloping stage and sparse furniture. It is highly atmospheric and Matt Leventhall’s lighting design captures that, as his mixture of sudden blackouts and quick flashes have the audience jumping out of their seat with trepidation. The intimacy and grand beauty of the theatre adds to the eery ambience of the play.
Leading the production is Carli Norris as The Governess, who is reserved upon her approach, but soon delves into her life and personality as the story is told. Norris gives an engaging performance and excellent character development through the complexity of the role.
Maggie McCarthy takes on the role of Mrs Grove, a servant who acts as The Governess’ companion and confidante. Mrs Grove is patient with The Governess and comforts her when she appears to be losing her mind. McCarthy brings great warmth to the motherly nature of the role
Turn of the Screw is well-thought-out and impressively staged to tell a convoluted story with clarity. The actors are consistently convincing and create an entirely unnerving and highly disturbing piece of theatre.
On at the Wolverhampton Grand until the 14th of April, tickets and information can be found here.