Review: The Turn of the Screw, by Benjamin Britten, Aurora Orchestra, Britten Weekend, Snape Maltings October 24

The Aurora Orchestra performing Turn of the Screw for Supernatural Suffolk, part of the Britten Week

The Aurora Orchestra performing Turn of the Screw for Supernatural Suffolk, part of the Britten Weekend at Snape - Credit: Archant

The Victorian world of Turn of the Screw is a dark place of orphans, governesses, vengeful ghosts, power, control, death and sex .

The Aurora Orchestra re-imagines Britten’s 1954 opera, presenting this world as one where the music itself is part of the very psyche of the characters and their hellish journey.

A symbolically unnamed Governess arrives to tutor orphaned children. Their previous governess drowned in a lake after another servant, had “made free” with her. He is also dead and now the pair haunt the children and house with terrifying consequences.

The creative team: Sophie Hunter, Andrew Staples and William Reynolds do not present a conventional piece of storytelling. The orchestra and singers are contained tightly within a box, its walls a spiders web of projected light that brightens, deepens and fractures throughout the performance reflecting mood and tension. It is a compelling thematic device that separates the world of adult and child, of knowledge and innocence. The children rarely enter this web and when they do, remain on its outermost edges; except when Miles, the boy, enters its heart to join the orchestra as the piece heads towards its tragic finale.

Our governess is trapped within this cage, she never moves and literally sings from her script- a powerless Victorian woman. She is placed at the centre of the performance facing her male conductor, whose face we never see. This creates an intimate and symbolic dynamic between male and female power and inner and outer thought, the music feeling at times more like a film score.


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If you didn’t know the story, without movement it would be very difficult to follow. However, the singing allows shards of words to appear like lanterns. The lighting design of this piece is simply mesmerising, creating an expressionistic subtext and gives the production its physical energy and momentum.

As someone who knows nothing about opera I was totally gripped. As a piece of theatre, it was superb.

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Jackie Montague

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