Edward Dick’s production of The
Turn of the Screw for OperaUpClose is everything that small-scale
opera should be: a tightly-controlled and brilliantly thought-through concept
that allows us to see and hear a great work in a totally new light. Britten’s spooky masterpiece doesn’t
necessarily need the cobwebs blown from it but Dick’s modern dress
interpretation serves up new ideas right to the end while ratcheting up the
tension to an almost unbearable degree.
The singing’s pretty good too. Presided over by Laura Casey’s dysfunctional
Mrs Grose, a gallumphing big baby, this Bly House is a madhouse, with Katie
Bird’s superb Governess beginning as a crumpled patient to David Menezes’s
Prologue/psychiatrist. Her behaviour is
erratic as soon as she arrives to tutor the two children (Eleanor Burke and
Samuel Woof on the night I attended, both astonishingly good). She strangely
caresses the chair that will soon become her anchor, a concrete reality as her
grip on things fades away. She then
falls apart magnificently in the 14th Variation, followed by a shocking
and unexpected denouement.
Both vocally strong, Menezes
returns as a shady Quint and Catrine Kirkman is a sleek Miss Jessell, lurking
behind gauze and dodging the shadows.
Cast in the role of baddies by a fevered imagination, they are
projections of the Governess’s mind, voices in her head that push her over the
Housing the opera in a tight white
skin with slots for doors is a stroke of genius. There may be a loss of Victorian gothic
creepiness in Signe Beckmann’s modern setting but there’s something quite
disturbing in this clinical dissection of disintegration, with Richard
Bleasdale’s fleeting monochrome projections and Richard Howell’s murky lighting
On piano, the sole accompaniment, David
Eaton tends to bang out this most delicate of scores but it still sounds mighty
good; like the whole production it breathes freshness into the work.
A strong recommendation then for
OperaUpClose’s first foray into the Britten repertoire; as powerful a performance
of The Turn of the Screw as you’re likely to see and a production that really raises their game.