Review by Emma Whitelaw
HENRY James’ classic tale has never appeared so blood-curdlingly
scary as that which appears onstage in Jeffrey Hatcher’s
adaptation of Turn of the Screw, currently showing
at the New End Theatre.
The simplicity of the production is what, I believe, makes the
play so astoundingly eerie. Featuring a mere cast of only two
(superbly gifted) actors and a few simple props, such as a rocking
chair and some candles, the ghostly tale takes on a uniquely chilling
The tale in itself is quite terrifying, yet the storytelling
talent of both Linda Slade and Eric Davis makes it all the more
It is the story of a young governess, played by Slade, who embarks
upon a new life at the stately home, Bly Manor, in Essex. When
she arrives, she is greeted by a beautiful little girl, Flora,
and the housekeeper, Mrs Grose, played by Davis.
Quite a lot is left to the audiences' imagination, which I think
also has a creepy effect.
Davis plays a multiple of roles throughout the play, yet there
is virtually no costume change; the characters simply emerge through
his own unique talent and the aid of a simple scarf that denotes
his transformation into Mrs Grose.
He also plays Miles, Flora’s older brother. Miles has been
sent home from school – dismissed for reasons unknown.
Reasons which the Governess makes
it her duty to know. What she doesn’t realise, however,
is the ghastly secret she will stumble across the further she
delves into Miles’ mysterious behaviour.
Over the following week, the Governess uncovers some ghastly
One night, while taking a stroll in the garden, and imagining
how proud her uncle would be of her achievements, she looks up
and, in the distance, sees a man in the one of the towers of the
The man is a stranger, and stares at her until she turns away.
This worries her, but she just assumes that he is a trespasser
and will soon disappear.
She soon forgets about the incident until one rainy afternoon,
when she is listening to Miles play to her on the piano. Outside
the window, she sees the same man staring at her and Miles.
She describes the man - curly red hair, red whiskers, sharp eyes
- to Mrs Grose, and the housekeeper says that the man is Peter
Quint, the uncle's former valet. Quint is dead.
The successive days are full of many more such horrors; the beautiful
young Flora is enticed into the nearby lake by the ghost of her
former Governess, Miss Jessel.
The children seem as though they are possessed as they dance
in the garden at night, the Governess seems to have no control;
that is, until she confronts her demons.
Turn of the Screw is a mysterious tale that is guaranteed
to set the pulse racing and capture your imagination.
Turn of the Screw written by Henry James and adapted
by Jeffrey Hatcher. Directed by Anna Brennan. Starring Linda Slade
and Eric Davies. 13th October to 6th November at the New End Theatre,
27 New End, Hampstead, London NW3 1JD. Box Office 0870 033 2733.