Turn Of The Screw Is More Sleepy Than Scary

Turn Of The Screw, Regent's Park Open Air Theatre ★★☆☆☆

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Turn Of The Screw Is More Sleepy Than Scary Turn Of The Screw, Regent's Park Open Air Theatre 2
Photo: Johan Persson

Don't ask us what the story of The Turn of the Screw, the 1898 horror novella staged in Regent's Park as opera, might be. Even reading through the programme twice and Googling it after, we gave up. This might be because in Henry James's classic there is no real story, which works to the play's benefit or detriment, depending on your view.

What the production lacks in plot — hinging on a governess looking after two young charges in a country house that may or may not be haunted — it makes up for in atmosphere. Orchestra players are part hidden in Soutra Gilmour's ghoulish set, depicted as a house its artist has half finished, its structure all bones and no walls. The curtain of trees that frame the stage and their rustling vibrations impart a shiver of anticipation.

There are some impressive performances from the English National Opera ensemble, including Rachel Lloyd as ghostly Miss Jessel. Child actors Sholto McMillan as Miles and Ellie Bradbury as Flora are also fun to watch for the freshness and physicality they bring to the gloomy proceedings.

If you're a real opera fan, you may love it, though be warned there are no rousing or memorable arias to lift the repetitive style. As dusk descends, the mellifluous orchestra and its flute notes fluttering like birds begin to eek out some of Henry James's skin-crawling magic. However it's more sleepy than scary, which, whatever the plot consists of, is surely not the aim.

Turn of the Screw, Regents Park Open Air Theatre, NW1 4NU, £25-£55, until 30 June

By Belinda Liversedge

Last Updated 28 June 2018