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A classy cast and a chilling tale of murder and psychological terror combine to enthral and wrack the nerves in the latest production of Patrick Hamilton’s famous 1938 play, Gaslight, currently touring the UK. Set in the late nineteenth century but just as relevant today, this taut oft-staged thriller was made into a now-classic film starring Ingrid Bergman in 1944.

Former Eastenders actress and Strictly Come Dancing 2010 winner Kara Tointon plays Bella Manningham, whose complex emotional bullying at the hands of her sadistic husband Jack, played by Rupert Young (Merlin, Hotel Babylon, Doctor Who) has left her doubting her own sanity. The reasons for Jack’s evil and manipulative behaviour are shockingly revealed during a late-night visit by a mysterious guest, played by seasoned all-rounder Keith Allen (Trainspotting, Shallow Grave, The Others).

Keith Allen & Kara Tointon in Gaslight credit: Manuel Harlan

All the drama takes place in the couple’s Victorian drawing room, the claustrophobic setting reinforcing the tension which has been wound tight by Tointon’s solid playing of a needy, emotionally broken woman brought to the edge of despair by a cruel and dominating man. She is heartlessly ridiculed in front of her own servants and made to believe that she is slowly going mad by a callous husband whose affection she still desperately yearns for, even whilst suspecting that he is disloyal and that he has only his own avaricious interests at heart. The chauvinistic laws of the late 1800s that form a backdrop to this story - such as the one that rendered a woman’s money automatically the property of her husband once she married - may have now thankfully passed into history, but the crime of domestic abuse is still, unfortunately, a depressingly contemporary reality for some.

There are some ghostly stage effects to add to the unease, and great acting by even the minor characters (Charlotte Blackledge shines as a seductive and scheming housemaid) help stir up the underlying feeling of menace. Excellent direction by Anthony Banks and a top quality cast make this a production not be missed when it returns to London (Richmond Theatre) from 6th to 11th March.

Also playing at:

Brighton Theatre Royal: 6 – 11 February

Cambridge Arts Theatre: 13 – 18 February

Sheffield Lyceum: 20 – 25 February

Malvern Theatres: 27 Feb – 4 March

Richmond Theatre: 6 – 11 March

Cardiff New Theatre: 14 – 18 March



Theatre Review: Gaslight
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