Note: This review is from the 2020 Fringe

Horror theatre group Nine Knocks have put quill to paper and penned a remarkably atmospheric tale of death, mystery and ghosts. Based on Henry James’ classic novella The Turn of the Screw, After the Turn: The Mystery of Bly Manor is an intelligent reworking of the original story that seamlessly moves it into a present day setting.

Each character is viewed in isolation, creating a crime documentary style and a murder-mystery air of interrogation. Central to the story is the mental disintegration of the Governess, Theodora Hill, and some ‘newly unearthed’ video diaries provide the biggest set of revelations as the plot progresses. The footage regularly plunges the Governess into pitch black, and each time she appears she looks a little bit more ragged and haunted. Eilidh Gibson is superbly convincing in this role and at times deeply unnerving, and you will never once question her belief in the ghosts that plague her.

The rampant air of suspicion and intrigue is as effective as you could hope from online theatre. A range of different characters are introduced who – perhaps disappointingly – don’t get the same depth or detail as the Governess. But they all fall perfectly into their places as cogs in the story. They all form part of the underlying tales of privilege, power and unspoken violence that give the story texture.

The techniques put to use are extremely effective. An interview tape played out with text on the screen is especially chilling, the facelessness adding extra edge. The end’s drawing produced by the child you hear talking feels like a pre-school take on the climax of The Shining. The home feels less like the focus of the haunting than the main character, her emotional and mental collapse seeming weirdly finalised when her grey being is inscribed in crayon.

Chilling, capably made and just slightly macabre, After the Turn: The Mystery of Bly Manor is a worthy entry in mystery horror that uses the video format to wonderful effect; twisting your perceptions of what just might be hiding in the darkest corners of your home.

 

After the Turn: The Mystery of Bly Manor is available to stream via YouTube here.