TURN OF THE SCREW
Grand Theatre, Wolverhampton, Tuesday 10th April , 2018
Henry James’s classic ghost story is often cited as an inspiration for Susan Hill’s The Woman In Black – and in this masterful new stage adaptation by Tim Luscombe, you can see why. A stranger arrives at a lonely mansion, there is mystery about dark deeds of the past, and apparitions stalk the scene… Where the James differs from the Hill is the emphasis is on the psychological aspects. It’s a slow-burner and we’re never sure if the ghosts are ‘real’ or figments of the imagination of the young Governess (Carli Norris). Freud would probably say the apparitions are manifestations of the young woman’s repressed sexuality – she did take a fancy to her dashing employer (Michael Hanratty) before he dashed off, and indeed the action that suggests the show’s title, a young girl twisting a mast into a toy ship, triggers one of the Governess’s episodes… Also, having the same actor portray all the male roles supports the idea of her fixation on her employer, the uncle of her two charges.
Michael Hanratty (Photo: Robert Workman)
Carli Norris is splendid as the composed, older Governess, come to attend an interview. As her story unfolds and she becomes her younger self, she is driven to distraction by events. Her interviewer is spirited and commanding, and in the flashbacks becomes young girl Flora, energetic to the point of exhausting, in a highly effective performance by Annabel Smith. There is some steady character work from Maggie McCarthy as the lowly Mrs Grose, lending bags of atmosphere to the piece, and in the male roles Michael Hanratty demonstrates his versatility and magnetic presence – especially as young boy Miles who has been expelled from school for unmentionable reasons.
Director Daniel Buckroyd builds the intrigue, punctuating the storytelling with moments geared up to jolt or cause a shiver. Sara Perks’s set keeps things simple: covered furniture becomes landscape, for example, so the one location – the Governess’s room (or her mind, depending on how you look at it) – serves for all. Matt Leventhall’s lighting makes excellent use of side-lighting, giving the characters a dramatic, almost statuesque, appearance, and John Chambers’s compositions and sound design underscore the action to an unsettling degree.
This is a classy, stylish and captivating production, made in conjunction between Dermot McLaughlin Productions, Mercury Theatre Colchester and Wolverhampton’s Grand – it’s especially gratifying to see the latter extending its reach into producing new work. Bravo, the Grand!
Carli Norris (Photo: Robert Workman)
Leave a comment | tags: Annabel Smith, Carli Norris, Daniel Buckroyd, Dermot McLaughlin Productions, Grand Theatre Wolverhampton, Henry James, John Chambers, Maggie McCarthy, Matt Leventhall, Mercury Theatre Colchester, Michael Hanratty, review, Sara Perks, Tim Luscombe, Turn of the Screw | posted in Theatre Review
THE BUTTERFLY LION
Curve, Leicester, Thursday 12th April 2012
Daniel Buckroyd’s new adaptation of a Michael Murpurgo novel took me by surprise. Initially, I found myself thinking of all the things it reminded me of. The Lion King is one – there is an African setting, the puppets bear a family resemblance, the music has African rhythms and there is even a Circle-of-Life type chorus. This story however, tells us life is not circular. Life is linear, a journey from birth to death. “Butterflies live very short lives,” is one of the opening lines, introducing the theme of mortality and foreshadowing what is to come.
The story has much in common with Murpurgo’s more famous piece, War Horse. A young boy forms a friendship with an animal that has ‘something wrong’ with it. They are separated and reunited. World War One features (I expected War Lion to appear at any second) but in this case it is the boy who distinguishes himself through bravery. There is the additional element of a love story between Bertie (the boy) and Millie (the narrator) which begins when they are children and lasts until death do them part.
Storytelling is a key feature. This is a tale within a tale. Young Michael does a runner from his stuffy boarding school and the cruelty of bully Basher, and winds up at a house, a very big house in the country. Old Millie (Gwen Taylor) takes him in out of the rain. She tells him the story of Bertie and the white lion cub that became his friend. Michael (Joe Jameson) becomes Bertie but the staging of the switching in and out of stories is so clearly done, you are never confused about which character and which story you are watching. Jameson is an appealing protagonist, capturing Michael’s sadness and subsequent enthusiasm, and portraying Bertie across the years. Gwen Taylor’s Millie is an endearing old soul – not quite as effective when she’s the ten-year-old girl but such is the magic engendered by this production, you run with it, as she runs trying to get her box kite in the sky. This is a story within a story about a story. There is a final twist, a surprise, but by that point I was awash with tears anyway. This is a play about life, love and loss, the mortality of all things – but it is not morbid or mawkish in the least. It’s a celebration of everything life throws at us all, a life lesson not just for the kids in the audience.
The puppets are wonderful. Deceptively simple in design and expertly handled, they allow the audience to read emotions into the animals and small children they represent. The cast is like a well-oiled machine. The deep rich voice of Israel Oyelumade is the African counterpoint to Millie’s English narration. Msimisi Dlamini brings a touch of the exotic as circus owner Merlot. Robert Curtis, Sanchia McCormack and Christopher Hogben nip in and out, offering support as parents, teachers, soldiers, nurses and so on, along with scene-shifting and puppet work. Director Daniel Buckroyd has gathered a hard-working and effective ensemble to perform his inventive ideas.
This was opening night and I spotted a couple of missed cues but there was nothing to detract from my enjoyment and appreciation of this magical, life-affirming piece of theatre.
1 Comment | tags: Curve Leicester, Daniel Buckroyd, Gwen Taylor, Israel Oyelumade, Joe Jameson, Michael Murpurgo, Msimisi Dlamini, review, The Butterfly Lion | posted in Theatre Review