Theatre Review of The Turn of the Screw at the Ameilda Theatre in London


Children in horror fiction always make for more chills. The stripped away innocence is unnerving and for some reason always removes the ability for campiness and silliness. In other words, the premise of children under threat is not funny, so horrors concerning them are often unrelenting in their shocking nature.
The Turn of the Screw fits the bill as one of English Literature’s most disturbing and adult horror tales.
Written by New York-born British writer Henry James and published in 1898, the gothic novella is currently being staged as a play adapted by Rebecca Lenkiewicz for Hammer Horror at the Almeida Theatre in Islington, London.
The Turn of the Screw involves a young governess (played by Anna Madeley) who is hired to look after two orphaned children, Miles (Laurence Belcher) and Flora (played by Emilia Jones on the night I saw it), at a remote rural estate.
At first the children appear angelic and carefree despite the tragedy of losing both their parents but it soon becomes apparent that darkness covers the household and not all is what is seems.
The death of the previous governess, Miss Jessel, may be linked to the sighting of possibly paranormal figures in the estate, including that of a dead employee, Peter Quint – an unquestionably despicable figure.
The new governess struggles to come to terms with her surroundings as she fights to save the children from these mysterious forces.
The Turn of the Screw is not your typical ghost story. It involves dark adult concepts, including inferences of child sexual abuse. The ghosts aren’t your booing, shrieking types either. That they do speak adds to the terror.
This new Hammer production of The Turn of the Screw is truly spine-chilling. The lighting and sound effects all add to the unnerving growing insanity surrounding the household. The dark, gothic sets are simply beautiful. It is literally live Hammer Horror. I thoroughly recommend this production.
There have been many film productions of The Turn of the Screw before, including the most famous, released as The Innocents starring Deborah Kerr in 1961. But Hammer has outdone itself this time, creating a production that could easily be made into a film to rival, if not outdo The Woman in Black (2012).

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