This retelling of a classic Henry James tale is a menacing and suspenseful production, with more chills than the winter weather.
Based on James’ Turn Of The Screw, William Archibold’s 1950s play tells the story of a governess who begins work at a remote country house, charged with the welfare and education of a young boy and girl.
At first all seems well, but as time progresses she begins to believe that malevolent presences are haunting the grounds – and perhaps tormenting the children.
The small cast is led by Megan Artherton as governess Miss Giddens. She puts in an exceptional performance, with her initial over-cheeriness giving way to mental and physical decline. Along with her the audience can never quite be sure whether the ‘ghosts’ are real, or part of her imagination; Artherton’s tension and nervous exhaustion are palpable.
Through Richard Hand’s direction she makes great use of the theatre’s galleries and staircases, wandering the ‘house’ lit only by a flickering candle, while dark presences loom literally and metaphorically.
Freya Prigmore and Oscar Meir are the two young children, and bring an awkward and eerie character to their portrayals: are they are aware of what is happening, or even in control of their own actions?
The cast is completed by Gill Tichborne, the long-serving housekeeper, and Ed Cairns and Georgia Dimpoloulou as the largely-silently but nonetheless chilling ‘spirits’.
Phil Williamson’s set and Chris Jones’ lighting gel seamlessly to provide a fitting setting for this Victorian tale, with gentle prods of menace from Phillip Rowe’s soundscape.
This dark and provocative tale with an outstanding performance at its heart makes for a spooky winter treat.
The Innocents continues until January 18 at Sewell Barn Theatre, Norwich.