EastEnder Carli leads Worthing Turn of the Screw

It's the most demanding, challenging, emotional stage role she's ever played, and yet Carli Norris still insists she is having a holiday with Turn of the Screw on tour.

Maggie McCarthy and Carli Norris - Turn of the Screw - Photo by Robert Workman
Maggie McCarthy and Carli Norris - Turn of the Screw - Photo by Robert Workman

Carli (EastEnders, BBC; Hollyoaks, Channel 4) is playing the new governess in the stage adaption of Henry James’ chilling novella which plays Worthing’s Connaught Theatre from April 18-21.

When Carli is playing her home theatre, she is wanting to get back home to see the children; but when she is on the road, as she says, she has got all the time in the world to chat to audiences afterwards.

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The other day, she loved chatting with a group of sixth-formers after the show about possible interpretations of the story. She also met up with older people who were grilling her about her own view of it all.

“I love chatting to people about it. I am someone who goes to the theatre as well. It is great to chat.”

In 1840, a young governess agrees to look after two orphans, a boy and a girl, in Bly, a seemingly-idyllic country house. But shortly after her arrival, she realises that they are not alone. There are others – the ghosts of Bly’s troubled past.

The governess will risk everything to keep the children safe, even if it means giving herself up to The Others.

Years later, confronted by the past she is compelled to account for what actually happened to her and those under her protection.

“The governess gets put through the mill, and in Henry James’ novella she ends up going into a mental hospital, as it was then. She wants to be cured, and now we see her 30 years later.

“At the start, she is very romantic. She is ambitious. She has landed this amazing job having come from quite a rural country setting. She is a little bit naïve, but she becomes heroic during the play.

“She believes everything she sees, but towards the end we see her world tumbling down around her both mentally and physically, and in the end, we realise that things might not actually have been as she saw them. My role is to tell her truth.”

And the other actors will tell their own truth.

“And it is not a question of deciding who is lying because nobody is lying, but you are coming to conclusions as to whether or not the governess was being manipulated into thinking something.

“I don’t leave the stage. It is very emotional. We are changing from 1840 to 1870, and that is 30 years. You have got to go from being 20 to being 50 in a matter of seconds.

“And you have got to look at it differently. And you have got to think about going down a different route. It is a quiet play. There are places where the audience will jump, but the majority of the time, it is quite quiet, and yet there is a pressing energy going throughout.”

The play is on the road until the end of May/early June – and it’s a holiday Carli believes she is having: “I have got two children, and I have got a shop back at home. I run a clothing shop and an online business. My husband is doing that, and I am trying to have a lie-in when I can on tour!”

Carli’s children are seven and nine and strictly speaking too young to see the play which comes with an age 14 advisory: “But my nine-year-old is pretty clever and she really wants to see it. I guess I will drag them down when we are in Portsmouth.”

And no, the children won’t be particularly impressed.

“They just know that this is what I do. They have seen me on television since they were babies. They just know that this is normal!”

For other stories by Phil, see: https://www.chichester.co.uk/author/Phil.Hewitt2