REVIEW: The Turn of the Screw by Tabs Productions

Turn of the Screw, performed at the Pomegranate Theatre
Turn of the Screw, performed at the Pomegranate Theatre

First it was something hilarious, then something tear-jerking – and now something spooky this way comes, as Tabs Productions conclude the all too brief Spring Play Season at the Pomegranate this week.

First it was something hilarious, then something tear-jerking – and now something spooky this way comes, as Tabs Productions conclude the all too brief Spring Play Season at the Pomegranate this week.

Henry James’s novella The Turn of the Screw is scary, chilling and intense, and if possible this cleverly structured two-handed stage adaptation is even more so. It has all the ingredients of a classic ghost story: a remote country house, a distant guardian with no interest in his wards, an inexperienced governess, strange happenings in the recent past.

Sarah Wynne Kordas is the governess, full of naïve enthusiasm until she discovers the creeping evil threatening the two children. Adrian Lloyd-James rises to the challenge of three roles without even a change of costume: the slightly sinister uncle, the housekeeper, and the disturbed dyslexic ten-year-old – the last no mean feat for a man over six feet tall!

It becomes impossible to drag your eyes away from the stage as skilled director Karen Henson ramps up the tension inch by inch, and nerve-jangling music and sound effects and a shadowy, shimmery set all conspire to freeze your bones. The chill factor rises steadily until the final tragic ambiguous scene. The ending is balanced on a knife-edge: has the governess, damaged by her own unhappy childhood, finally succumbed to neurosis, or is there really a malevolent presence in the house? Or is the truth something even darker and more alarming?

The Turn of the Screw is at the Pomegranate until Saturday. February 8.

LYNNE PATRICK