IT is one of the most influential ghost stories ever written and the inspiration for The Woman in Black. Now a new terrifying adaptation of Henry James’ The Turn of the Screw materialises on stage in an edge-of-your seat gothic horror, writes Paul Thomas.

James’ classic ghost tale comes to the Theatre Royal Windsor straight from Colchester where it is currently playing to terrified audiences.

The story is told from the perspective of a narrator recalling a ghost story he once heard read out loud. The ghost story itself is written from the perspective of a governess to whom the story happened.

Hired by a bachelor to take care of his niece and nephew, the governess barely arrives at their country home, Bly, before she starts seeing ghosts.

When she confides in the maid, Mrs Grose, she learns that the ghosts are former employees of the estate – Peter Quint and Miss Jessel.

The governess begins to suspect that her wards, Flora and Miles, can see the ghosts, but the children refuse to acknowledge the sightings.

She is afraid for them, especially when the ghosts appear inside the house, but she does not write to their uncle because he has asked not to be contacted.

More sightings cause the governess to change her mind, but before her letter can be delivered, it is stolen.

What happens next is frightening.

Carli Norris (EastEnders, Hollyoaks) plays the governess alongside Maggie McCarthy (Calender Girls, Doctors, Call The Midwife) plays Mrs Grose, pictured.

She tells me: “It’s an amazing story.”

The new adaptation is by the celebrated Tim Luscombe (Mansfield Park), and while keeping faithful to the original to leave the audience speculating what actually happened at Bly, it is a completely new play according to McCarthy.

She says: “I had read the story years ago and I know the opera and films, but I did not re-read Henry James’ story because I didn’t want to be influenced by the original.

“It’s a remarkable play and we’ve had great reaction from the audiences at Colchester, who even turned out during the recent bad weather.

“It’s a scary story, a great ghost story and has wonderful lighting and sound which really does enhance the whole encounter. The set design on stage is gothic and dark and all helps for the audience’s reaction.

“There are gasps, that’s for sure.”

Although this is a departure, Luscombe has fleshed out James’ classic retelling of the governess’ tale leaving the audience to work out what happens.

McCarthy says: “People leave with completely different opinions.”

She adds about her role: “It’s based on Mrs Grose’s relationship with the governess based on her knowledge of the former governess and there are clues about how she feels towards her, the children and Quint.

“ I tend to play under stairs characters and have learned how it was for people like that in the Victorian era.”

James’ original story was in novella form and is a very ambiguous story about good and evil which will leave the audience spellbound and not a little frightened.

Be prepared!

The Turn of the Screw, Theatre Royal Windsor, Tuesday, March 13-Saturday, March 17. Box office: 01753 853888 or