Tuesday, June 18

After the Turn: The Mystery of Bly Manor, Online @theSpaceUK

Nine Knocks Theatre’s After the Turn: The Mystery of Bly Manor is a modern retelling of Henry James’ classic novella, The Turn of the Screw. Written and directed by George Cooper and Ellie Hardwick, it is a delightfully creepy interpretation of a classic and well-loved ghost story.

The piece opens with a black screen and overlapping voices giving an ominous feeling from the start. Presented as a series of filmed interviews edited in a documentary style, the show ingeniously incorporates the framing device used in James’ original work, incorporating the first person narration of Theodora (Eilidh Gibson) as a series of video diaries presented to the programme by her friend, Marcus Bryson (Brian Weldich).

We learn that Theodora was hired as a Nanny by Jonathan Bly (Stan Wildish) to care for his niece, Flora (Caroline Haddow) and nephew, Miles, after the untimely death of his brother and his wife. Theodora begins her job enthusiastically and becomes very close to both children, but one night she sees a man watching her. This leads to a series of events whereby Theodora becomes increasingly erratic and possessive over the children, and the household spirals out of control towards horror and tragedy.

The settings and costumes used throughout the piece are excellent, especially taking into account the circumstances in which it has been made. The company have also been able to use lighting to increase atmosphere which is a lovely touch.

Wildish’s performance is very good as the absent and emotionally constrained uncle. Sophie Ingram as Catherine Strode, one of the household maids is excellent, and brings another perspective to the story. Alice Berry gives an admirable performance as Eleanor Grose, the calm and matter-of-fact housekeeper whose personality is enhanced by her lovely touches of friendship with Theodora.

Gibson’s performance is fantastic. Especially enthralling from the first sighting of the mysterious man, it gets better and better from there. Her attempts at self-reassurance while remaining full of doubts is palpable and her facial expression and body language as she loses herself in the terror of her situation more and more is wonderfully done.

This is an excellent piece which beautifully blurs the lines of reality, delusion and the supernatural as wonderfully as the original work. Disturbing, hypnotic and so dreadfully tragic, this is truly an exceptional piece of online theatre.

After the Turn: The Mystery of Bly Manor  is being streamed on Online @theSpaceUK https://online.thespaceuk.com/watch-shows/theatre#h.h3likcw4z82r  

Reviewer: Donna M Day

Reviewed: 14th August 2020

North West End UK Rating: ★★★★★