The Turn of the Screw
Award-winning director Timothy Sheader returned once again to Regent’s Park, offering his take on Benjamin Britten’s haunting The Turn of the Screw. Based on Henry James’s novella of the same title, the opera tells the story of mysterious encounters at a secluded mansion, and of a – possibly insane – young governess growing desperate in her desire to protect her charges from uncanny visits from beyond the grave.
Dark memories casting their shadow over the family, coupled with the persevering isolation of the broken mansion, leads to a sense of uneasiness, of despair, as showcased in this production, which transported the enthusiastic audience into a world of eeriness. To improve this effect, Sheader’s foresight ensured that the performance would take place in the twilight hours of the evening, between light and dark, enabling the uncanny shadows to put the audience on the edge of their seats. In the same mindset, he represented the mansion as a ruined glass fragment of a building – reflecting the fractured and broken lives of the opera’s characters.
Conductor Toby Purser and the members of the ENO orchestra brought their skills to the fold. With perfect timing and precision, they highlighted the uncomfortable nature of Britten’s glorious music, at times dark and frightening, at others strange and unnatural. William Morgan starred as Peter Quint, incorporating the sinister nature of his character, and Rhian Lois as the governess captured the audience in her growing desperation as the opera unfolds. Special kudos go to Sholto McMillan as Miles and Ellie Bradbury as Flora who, despite their tender age, were marvellous at depicting the complex nature of their characters both as naïve children and victims of broken innocence.
Sheader’s chilling production of The Turn of the Screw in Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre was a memorable event. The audience experienced an atmospheric evening of sinister ambitions, rising tensions, and madness… a tremendous success, through and through.
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