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The Turn of the Screw

It seems ages since I’ve been to the theatre. I always avoid Pantomime Season as a matter of course, but that finished a little while ago. However, I’ve just not had the energy recently to go to the theatre – the last quarter of the Financial Year is always a tough one at work, and this year it seems to have been even more exhausting than usual. I’ve mostly spent the weekends doing as little as possible – other than shovelling snow, of course!

However, I’ve got to the end of the Financial Year more or less in one piece, and for the first time in months felt up to going out to Malvern Theatres on Saturday. I looked up what was on, and was in luck – it was a touring production of Henry James’ classic supernatural thriller, The Turn of the Screw. Even better, they had standby tickets available for the matinée, so I treated myself to one.

It’s set in the mid nineteenth century, with a governess sent to take charge of two young children in an isolated manor house. Then things start to go horribly wrong, leading to tragedy. In the book it’s deliberately left unclear whether the house is indeed haunted by the ghosts of two dead servants who are “coming for” the children, or whether the governess’ overwrought imagination has made it all up.  The staging managed to bring out these inherent contradictions very well. Whatever your reading of what went on, there was certainly an unpleasant undercurrent of what we these days would call child abuse.

Overall I didn’t find the play as creepy and unsettling as I remember finding the book when I read it some years ago. But it certainly made me think – to the extent that I spent much of Sunday searching online for literary criticism of the book, to get a feeling for what other people thought was going on. So I suppose that has to be counted a success for the play, as I most certainly don’t normally read deep and meaningful reviews of 19th century literature!