The Turn of the Screw - Glyndbourne Touring Opera

CHRISTOPHER SMITH Norwich Theatre Royal


Norwich Theatre Royal

Glyndebourne on Tour sends a shiver down every spine with its interpretation of Benjamin Britten's taut operatic version of Henry James' celebrated ghost story. In the nursery, the Christmas tree twinkles, but in vain. Outside, it is wet and cold. Inside heads, anxiety builds up to bursting point.

Director Jonathan Kent and designer Paul Brown make the most of their chances. In fact, sometimes their ingenuity is in danger of becoming just too obvious. Generally, thought, it works. A very clever illusion of a train speeding through the countryside sets the tone.

Like the turning glazed frame that serves now as French windows, next to that dangerous pond, the stage revolve helps create an image of a world slipping out of joint.

Large, masterful at first and the very image of a governess, Kate Royal puts a lot of character into her role. Anne-Marie Owens as Mrs Grose is less successful, in part because too many of her words are lost as she sings rather more loudly than her part really demands. The loss of clarity is particularly unfortunate in her long passage explaining the situation.

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In roles that are perhaps the best Britten ever wrote for children, Joanna Songi and Christopher Sladdin sing and act admirably, with never a touch of embarrassing cuteness. In a powerful characterisation Daniel Norman as Quint phrases his tenor line with piercing intensity. With his red hair and dark clothes, he looks right too.

Under Edward Gardner the orchestra is always lively, bringing out instrumental colour to underline every situation and adding individuality. As the drums beat out the rhythm of a sinister march, the domestic drama grows into something of greater significance.

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