site search by freefind advanced

 Connecting professional and amateur theatre in Newbury, West Berkshire and beyond

Croft Hall - The Turn of the Screw

7th July 2006.

From the Newbury Weekly News.

Time spirits away the supernatural chill of the 19th century

HADCAF - The Turn of the Screw, at Croft Hall, Hungerford, on Friday, July 7

I have never read Henry James' classic tale of demonic possession, published in 1898, so I am unable to judge how skilfully Philippa Urquhart adapted it for the stage.

There can be no doubt, however, that Urquhart's solo performance of her adaptation was a remarkable tour de force. Assuming the role of James' naive young governess, she narrated with great vividness the story of her arrival at her new employer's isolated Essex house, and her discovery that the young boy and girl in her charge were gradually becoming possessed by the evil spirits of the house's former gardener and former governess.

Atmosphere counts for much in a ghost story and Urquhart conjured up the atmosphere of the sinister house very well, even though her performance was taking place on a balmy midsummer's evening, rather than in the depths of winter with the wind howling eerily outside.

With minimal stage lighting and sound effects, the performer relied entirely upon her unassisted voice to sustain the performance.

In the end, though, despite all her efforts, I cannot say that I found the evening truly chilling.

Perhaps the inescapable fact is that where attitudes towards such things as the supernatural, childish innocence and evil spirits are concerned, the gap between the 19th century and the present day is sometimes simply too great to be bridged by even the most skilful performer.