The Innocents review: an outstanding performance

The Innocents runs until January 18 at Sewell Barn in Norwich. Picture: Sean Owen/Reflective Arts

The Innocents runs until January 18 at Sewell Barn in Norwich. Picture: Sean Owen/Reflective Arts - Credit: Sean Owen/Reflective Arts

This retelling of a classic Henry James tale is a menacing and suspenseful production, with more chills than the winter weather.

Based on James' Turn Of The Screw, William Archibold's 1950s play tells the story of a governess who begins work at a remote country house, charged with the welfare and education of a young boy and girl.

At first all seems well, but as time progresses she begins to believe that malevolent presences are haunting the grounds - and perhaps tormenting the children.

The small cast is led by Megan Artherton as governess Miss Giddens. She puts in an exceptional performance, with her initial over-cheeriness giving way to mental and physical decline. Along with her the audience can never quite be sure whether the 'ghosts' are real, or part of her imagination; Artherton's tension and nervous exhaustion are palpable.

Through Richard Hand's direction she makes great use of the theatre's galleries and staircases, wandering the 'house' lit only by a flickering candle, while dark presences loom literally and metaphorically.

Freya Prigmore and Oscar Meir are the two young children, and bring an awkward and eerie character to their portrayals: are they are aware of what is happening, or even in control of their own actions?

The cast is completed by Gill Tichborne, the long-serving housekeeper, and Ed Cairns and Georgia Dimpoloulou as the largely-silently but nonetheless chilling 'spirits'.

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Phil Williamson's set and Chris Jones' lighting gel seamlessly to provide a fitting setting for this Victorian tale, with gentle prods of menace from Phillip Rowe's soundscape.

This dark and provocative tale with an outstanding performance at its heart makes for a spooky winter treat.

- The Innocents runs at Sewell Barn in Norwich until January 18

- Tickets are available for £9 - £10 from their website

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