“Ambitious, but unmistakeably flawed”
The Turn of the Screw, in the words of it’s author, is a tale wherein “the strange and sinister” is embroidered on the normal for dread rather than horror – bold for the time, and even bolder as a minimalistic, two-person stage play. However, what resulted on stage was much like the mind of the story’s governess: ambitious, but unmistakeably flawed.
Rik Grayson proved a strong and surprisingly diverse actor, playing not only the male narrator but also providing powerful and eerie performances as the housekeeper Mrs Grose and Miles, one of the troubled children. His mannerisms were specific, sustained and on point – he turned what was at first a strangely humorous old woman into a figure of suspicion and palpable dread.
The same, however, cannot be said of his stage mate Suzy Whitefield. Whilst at certain points in the production she showed genuine emotional depth (a tense, genuinely unnerving darkness scene stands out), her performance felt oddly flat throughout the rest of the piece – which unfortunately, due to both the small cast size and the show’s dependence upon her character, took much of the essential fear and trepidation out of the drama. Although at times her fear was completely believable, the sense of a desperate, slowly crumbling human being behind it was not. Whitefield shows promise, but unfortunately certain aspects of her character portrayal hold her back.
This was helped, however, by simple yet brilliantly effective lighting design from the tech team, whose use of light and darkness during night and evening scenes carved the atmosphere so deep into the stage that it was nearly inescapable.
All in all, this was the very epitome of a curate’s egg: both actors had scenes which made my hair stand on end, but at the same time, parts of the show were utterly devoid of the tense, sinister fear that makes The Turn of the Screw such an enduring tale of horror. I sincerely wish I had been able to like it more. With an extra sheen of polish and a few tweaks to the pacing and delivery, this is a production which could be much more powerful.
Reviewer: Jacob Close (Seen 8 August)
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