23-28 January 2017
Reviewed by Christine Charlesworth
On a very cold and foggy, January night I went over to Woking to see the touring production of ‘Gaslight’, a play by Patrick Hamilton written in 1939 but set in Victorian England. The weather gave a very fitting atmosphere to the psychological thriller I was going to see.
The action takes place in a fairly small area, giving the impression of looking across the angle of a Victorian sitting room to the corner of the room, centre stage. This gives the set a feeling of claustrophobia, which was very apt for the play. The room has the over-furnishings of the Victorian era with the walls taken up by double doors, grandfather clock, large fitted bookcase on one wall then a large Victorian fireplace and side furniture on the other wall. Above the fireplace is a very large mirror with, of course, two gaslights either side. The fire in the fireplace is impressively realistic.
From the very beginning of the play we are made aware of how manipulative Jack Manningham, played by Rupert Young, is with his wife Bella. She is obviously so very unsure of herself and hangs on every crumb of love and attention given to her by her husband. He revels in making her feel insecure and embarrassed by his wicked comments and flirtatious attitude to the young maid. Through his actions we see her change from being a happy young wife to being a woman who is only certain of her own madness. Kara Tointon, as Bella Manningham, gives an excellent performance as the young Victorian wife, housebound and unsure of everything, but so very willing to try to please her husband, even though she is almost believing that she is truly going mad. Rupert Young, I felt, could have appeared more believably manipulative if he had concentrated on being more psychologically menacing rather that getting too loud and angry.
Then in comes Rough, expertly played by Keith Allen, and the whole play is lifted up a notch with intrigue, surprise and suspense, but also with quite a bit of humour. As an add-on, last night Rough had such a sweet tooth that as well as the four lumps of sugar in his hand he also picked up and put into his tea the one lump he had dropped onto the floor, much to the amusement of the audience.
The costumes were very good and much in keeping with the era. Personally I feel that the production could have done without the special effects and ‘noises off’, which I found distracting.
I was very pleased to see that the theatre was almost full and the audience had an excellent cross section of ages. At curtain call there were cheers for the performances by Kara Tointon and Keith Allen.
This was a very enjoyable production. Performances continue at this theatre until Saturday 28th January.
Tickets cost from £20.90 to £54.40 (plus £2.85 transaction fee).
Gaslight is at the New Victoria Theatre in Woking until 28 January 2017. For more information or to book tickets click here or call the box office on 0844 871 7645.
New Victoria Theatre, The Ambassadors, Peacocks Centre, Woking, Surrey, GU21 6GQ