Patrick Hamilton’s Gaslight, a dark tale of toxic manipulation, set in the late nineteenth century, tells the story of the Manninghams, first produced on stage in 1938. This was a time when a wife was merely a chattel of her husband, with little or no legal rights.
Set in a beautifully dressed period living room throughout which oozed authenticity we meet James Freeman as the despicable Jack Manningham and his anxious wife Bella, Sian Weedon.
The scenes between these two divulged a deeply disturbing power structure, the masterful scheming manipulation of Bella by Jack, tempting with the promise of a theatre trip, until a supposed slight completely changes the air, snatching the pleasure away instantly, as he continually questions Bella’s sanity over and over again.
Feelings run high, as Jack uses any situation with the servants Gina Brian as Elizabeth and particularly the flirtatious maid Nancy, Kirsty Booth, to humiliate Bella further, constantly pressuring, driving her mad with systematic insidious mental torture.
When at her lowest ebb and intriguing turn of events present themselves, in the guise of Inspector Rough, Ian Birkin, heenters the house purposely as the master has left for the night.
Insistent on seeing Bella, in order to impart to her a tale of coincidences, the locked, out of bounds rooms at the top of the house; of strange noises in the night; of an obscure historic bloody murder, of long-lost rubies, of a man she seems to recognise. Most importantly of her sanity.
The cast really were on the top of their collective game tonight. Their depth of experience showed, the emotions, the feeling of hopelessness, of the inevitable commitment, certainly came across.
Director Sarah Stockdale has a keen academic interest in the nineteenth century political history, after having taught Historical and Modern Politics for over thirty years, she certainly brought her knowledge to the table; the feel, costumes, and delivery of this production was excellent. Lighting so effective in conveying the storyline.
This was a truly intense piece of drama, sinister, yet beautifully crafted dark theatre. Does Bella survive, does Jack succeed in his plans? Book your tickets to find out, you won’t be disappointed.
Utterly superb. Theatre at its finest.