The play is performed entirely by two actors. Christine Horne plays the Governess and Clinton Walker, drawing on his vocal range, assumes all remaining roles: the Man, Uncle, Mrs. Grose, and Miles. Director Vikki Anderson reinvigorates the play just in time for Halloween.
“I love Halloween,” said Walker. “I love getting into the spirit of it. We want to be scared. It makes us feel alive and tests our limits.”
The play recounts the tale of a young, inexperienced governess charged with the care of Miles and Flora, two children abandoned by their uncle in his grand country house. When she learns that her predecessor, Miss Jessel, died under curious circumstances, she begins to hear strange things and see mysterious figures. She eventually convinces herself that Miss Jessel and her lover Quint (the uncle’s dissolute valet who has also died) are using her charges to continue their relationship from beyond the grave. She pours her energies into protecting the children from the perceived evil. The audience is left to decide whether the apparitions represent figments of her imagination or genuine threats, as the governess walks the line between mental unsoundness and lucidity.
“It’s all about storytelling and inferred terror,” said Walker. “This is a kind of scare that allows people to examine what really frightens them.”
Campbell House, built in 1822 by Upper Canada Chief Justice Sir William Campbell and Toronto’s oldest remaining brick home, serves as an apt location. At each performance, a group of 20 to 30 viewers follow the cast as they weave throughout the home’s rooms. The historic setting only heightens the play’s verisimilitude and haunting atmosphere.
“We wanted the audience to feel as if they were watching a moment in history,” said Walker.
This deceptively simple ghost story crackles with psychological thrills. Nothing is overt; things seen and unseen and episodes conducted behind closed doors all point to the ambiguity of the governess’s mental state.
“There is something about it being in her head that makes it scarier,” said Horne. “There’s the idea that it could happen to anybody. People are in the mood for stuff like this, so I hope it enhances the spooky autumn atmosphere.”
The Turn of The Screw runs through Nov. 7 at the Campbell House Museum, 160 Queen St. W. Performances are Mon. to Sat. at 8:30 p.m., with Wed. and Thurs. matinees at 1:00 p.m. Tickets at www.dvxt.com or 416-504-3898.