Tuesday, February 27, 2024
HomeCultureThe Turn of the Screw

The Turn of the Screw

The Turn of the Screw
Writer: Richard Hilliar
Director: Richard Hilliar
Seymour Centre
July 26 – August 12, 2023

Richard Hilliar’s stage adaptation of Henry James’s much-debated novella The Turn of the Screw delights in presenting a range of Gothic horror elements while giving James’s apparent theme a more contemporary perspective. At the same time, Hilliar endeavours to maintain the famous Jamesian ambiguity which refuses a definitive interpretation.

The story and setting are essential ingredients of the Gothic genre. An anxious governess (Lucy Lock), daughter of a parson, is employed by an emotionally impaired privileged male to take charge of his dead brother’s two children and is immediately transported to a gloomy mansion in a remote location. Her only adult company is a garrulous housekeeper Mrs Grose (Martelle Hammer). Her employer, termed The Master (Harry Reid), leaves the children’s welfare entirely in her hands, refusing any further involvement in their upbringing.

The elaborate stage setting (Hamish Elliot) features a heavily panelled interior with dim and often ghostly lighting, flickering lamps, extinguished candles, mysteriously banging doors and loud sobbing and footsteps within. The set includes a miniature replica of the house’s façade which later appears enlarged in a darkened doorway suggesting the heavy and constrictive weight of the past on the present. As typical of the genre, many of the scenes take place at night, and water plants lining the edge of the stage evoke the possibly dangerous presence of a lake.

The two children, tantrum-prone Flora (Kim Clifton) and over-wrought Miles (Jack Richardson) unexpectedly and mysteriously expelled from school, are strangely precocious and given to worrying secret games in a house of many rooms. Their uncertain governess has little control over them and either perceives or imagines their corruption by former employees of the Master, her impressions fuelled by the tongue-wagging and probably alcoholic Mrs Grose. Is the governess deluded or are the children possessed?

Lock performs the difficult role of the governess well. In her opening interview with the rakish, callous Master her manner is fraught. Educated and a parson’s daughter, she is “a lady”, yet she is a lowly employee – as Miles later points out – powerless but in a role where she is expected to exert authority.  Her attempts to relate to the demanding Flora are humiliating. Is it possible to befriend a child who has power over her? Does she have an ally in the apparently kindly Mrs Grose who may have her own reasons for further destabilising the governess’s position in the household.

From the moment the play opens a melodramatic but still unnerving soundtrack (Chrysoulla Markoulli) creates unease and, throughout, lighting is used to effectively instil panic (Ryan McDonald). While there are funny moments in which it seems the genre is being spoofed, each of the characters has sufficient depth to give them interest. However, at the same time, the last-minute attempt to maintain the essential ambiguity of the James story is a little too pat.

The title refers to the extortion of confession through torture and Hilliar’s adaptation answers this question from the vantage point of our present understanding of trauma.

- Advertisment -spot_img
- Advertisment -spot_img

Volunteers’ News – February 2024

Welcome back to another year of the South Sydney Herald, still being published in our 23rd year, thanks to your support and readership.

Tennis legends criticised for boycott plea

Tennis greats Martina Navratilova and Chris Evert have been accused of “turning their backs on women” after pushing back on plans to hold the season ending WTA Finals in Saudi Arabia’s capital.

Photos from January 26

Michelle Haywood captures the mood of January 26 with this collection of photos from across South and central Sydney.

Melanoma treatment pioneers awarded 2024 Australian of the Year

University of Sydney Professors Georgina Long AO and Richard Scolyer AO, co-medical directors of the Melanoma Institute Australia, have jointly won the prestigious Australian of the Year award for their pioneering work in the treatment of melanoma.

Living with dementia – a carer’s journey: 1. Diagnosis

My journey of caring for my husband, Stuart, living with dementia began with a trip he made to Monterrey, Mexico.

Volunteers’ News – December 2023

Martin Place Christmas tree and fairy lights until January 1 The City of Sydney is again showcasing the lights at Martin Place, with the tallest Christmas tree in NSW. It will feature a massive 110,000 LED lights, a colour-changing star and 330 specially created Christmas baubles. What a wonderful treat...