Review: Gaslight, New Theatre

Gaslight, Tuesday 14th March, New Theatre, Reviewer: Hannah Hopkins

A Victorian townhouse in London. Bella Manningham is slowly losing her mind. A picture goes missing from the piano, her watch disappears. There are mysterious noises coming from the out-of-bounds top floor and the gaslights above the fireplace are slowly dimming…

Patrick Hamilton’s Gaslight was written in 1938. A pseudo-Victorian thriller, this adaption paints the disturbing portrait of an oppressive and abusive marriage. Dig by dig, Bella’s husband Jack is driving her towards humiliation, tormenting her in front of their maid and placing all the blame for the missing items on her.

It was hard not to be taken aback by the set, which almost turns the vast space of New Theatre into something quite cavernous. The grand Victorian sitting room is the only setting of the play, and is one of the most intricate and well-designed I’ve seen in a while, giving the impression of perspective. There has clearly been a lot of thought put into it: the light coming through the window reflected on the back wall, the almost-concealed wardrobe door, the mirror…

Gaslight is evidence that Kara Tointon really can act. Her Bella is incredibly convincing, a pale and fragile lady urged to stay strong and Tointon really gives the character her all. She’s joined, out of the blue one evening, by Keith Allen as Rough, a retired detective on a last mission to solve an old case. Rough is a showman, played with finesse. Rough delivers comedic interjections, which provide – in part – the play’s impact in the more plodding points of the action. His character has mystery and purpose and in essence, gels the cast together. Of course, it is through him that we find out just what is really going on. Helen Anderson and Charlotte Blackledge work well as the crafty housekeepers.

Rupert Young plays manipulative and deceiving husband Jack with a mixture of haughtiness, condescension and even, at some points, he’s down right vicious. His character is booed at curtain-call, as if this were panto. Not because the character was terribly played, far from that, but without wishing to spoil what happens, the character got what he deserved.

Overall, Gaslight is a dark, yet shining example of a thriller done good. Thoroughly recommend.

by Hannah Hopkins