In this adaptation of the novella of the same name by Henry James, HookHitch Theatre present the story of a governess hired to care for orphaned siblings on an estate that seems to be haunted by its questionable former occupants. After the children’s uncle employs the governess, she begins seeing strange ghostly figures around the estate and becomes concerned about the effect these presences are having on the children. HookHitch were able to convey the sense of uncertainty that hangs around the story, never telling the audience the entirety and leaving part ambiguous. Though perhaps they overemphasise the speculated romantic attachment between the governess and her employer, as it seemed to undermine other parts of the story.
The narrative was well told and engaging throughout; however, the inclusion of Spanish style guitar was downright bizarre. Although the music did add to the atmosphere, this particular style very much clashed with the story origins and detracted more than it added.
The parts of the children were created using puppets and, whilst it was an interesting choice, at times it made staging awkward. When the puppets were carried as children it made the scene uncomfortable and seemed to make them infantile as opposed to just young. However, it highlighted the easily manipulated nature of the children and provided depth to staging and performance.
Much of the action on stage was dynamic, sharp and very well choreographed; a highlight is during a chase scene when the entire stage is used to create a haunting effect that spreads beyond the stage. However, scene changes were often awkward. Dialogue between scenes would overlap, and though it was clear it was an attempt to maintain a flow, at times it became slightly confusing and seemed unnecessarily complicated.
The production is able to maintain the sense of confusion and mystery inherent in the novella, meaning the audience is never entirely sure who is insane or malicious, or of the exact outcome. In this HookHitch theatre succeed admirably - they are able to convey a sense of fright and anxiety and to keep the pace high throughout.