Gaslight (2017)

Well, those of us able to catch Gaslight on its tour through England are in for another theatrical treat! This play is a classic thriller, written in 1938 by Patrick Hamilton, and set in a drawing room in Victorian-era London. This production is directed by Anthony Banks.

I loved the set, which was small and neat yet intricate, allowing for all kinds of surprises. The lighting and sound helped place the room in the real world, and also added greatly to the changing moods and a creeping sense of dread. Kudos to designer David Woodhead, lighting designer Howard Hudson, and composition and sound designers Ben and Max Ringham.

Rupert Young and Kara Tointon as the Manninghams (photo by Manuel Harlan)

Rupert is wonderful as Jack Manningham, the plausible, handsome husband who has turned into a plausible, manipulative terror. I’ve said it before, I know, but he really is far too good at this sort of thing. You can see why his young wife Bella married him, and why she still finds moments of happiness in their marriage – and you can also see how he could get away for too long with cruelly undermining her. Luckily for Bella, she has a friend or two she’s not yet aware of.

Kara Tointon is terrific as Bella, a bright young woman haunted by the memory of her mother dying insane. I won’t spoil anything, but even as the mysteries are revealed and her innocence reaffirmed, she still fears she’ll end up with the same fate.

Keith Allen is, of course, delightful as ‘Rough (a visitor)’ and delivers some of the funniest lines with great aplomb, while managing a great deal of stage business.

The main three actors are wonderfully supported by Helen Anderson, Charlotte Blackledge and the ensemble.

If you can go, I’d recommend it! The first night’s audience really enjoyed it, and I suspect we won’t be the only ones.

The play is touring England as follows. You can buy tickets via ATG Tickets, except where a separate ‘booking info’ link is provided below.

  • Birmingham, New Alexandra Theatre: 6-14 January 2017
  • Aylesbury, Waterside Theatre: 16-21 January 2017
  • Woking, New Victoria Theatre: 23-28 January 2017
  • York, Grand Opera House: 30 January – 4 February 2017
  • Brighton, Theatre Royal: 6-11 February 2017
  • Cambridge, Arts Theatre: 13-18 February 2017: booking info
  • Sheffield, Lyceum: 20-25 February 2017: booking info
  • Malvern Theatre: 27 February – 4 March: booking info
  • Richmond Theatre: 6-11 March 2017
  • Cardiff, New Theatre: 14-18 March 2017: booking info

P.S. It doesn’t hurt that Rupert looks so damned dapper in those clothes!

ETA: There is an interesting article about the lighting here. The lighting equipment was provided by the company White Light.

Reviews

It’s not, as Hamilton himself admitted, “a great work of art”. Poor Rupert Young – playing the manipulative bounder Jack with a judicious mixture of lordly but kindly condescension and explosive viciousness – even got booed at the opening-night curtain-call in Birmingham, as if this was panto. But the psychological essentials of this potboiler hold good, and, as with The Archers’ abuse storyline, who’s to say that real-life doesn’t acquire the hue of dark melodrama when male-female relations hit their nadir? 4 stars from Dominic Cavendish, The Telegraph, 11 January 2017

… the production relies heavily on the performances of its small cast as the plot gradually thickens. 4 stars from Diane Parkes, What’s On Stage, 12 January 2017

Testament to the terrifyingly convincing performance of the sadistic, psychotic Jack Manningham came by the chorus of boos actor Rupert Young received as he took a final bow at the New Alexandra Theatre where the production this week begins a national tour. Young oozed menace as he both charmed and petrified his tormented wife in a twisted power game. Humiliating her with his roving eye and deliberately shaming her before the servants to undermine and ostracise her, a cold chill swept the theatre as a hatred of the character developed. In his Victorian costume, Young swept onto the dimly-lit stage with his huge Jekyll-like shadow looming large and leaving the gripped audience biting their nails in apprehension as the tension built. Review by Diane Davies, Express and Star, 11 January 2017

While Rupert Young’s Jack Manningham is perhaps underplayed in the first half, after the interval he becomes frighteningly intense and scarily unpredictable as the air of threat increases. His moods swing ever more widely as he begins to suspect that something is now happening that is beyond even his control. 4 stars from Selwyn Knight, The Reviews Hub, 11 January 2017

… the real brilliance of Gaslight is unearthed in the joy of the actors’ craft … Going by the stellar performance the cast gave on opening night, you need to get your hands on some tickets, because it sounds like they have a whole lot more, if that’s even possible, to pull out of their theatrical bag. Review by Madeleine Bourne, Redbrick, 11 January 2017

As her bullying husband, Jack, Rupert Young domineers, exuding evil. What begins as a study in mental cruelty swiftly becomes something even darker as the true nature of the man Bella married is brought to light. … You can tell it’s working when the villain is booed during his curtain call! Review by William Stafford, Bum on a Seat, 11 January 2017

… the play’s real chill lies in the warped dynamic between Bella and her husband. Young oozes psychological menace as he slowly picks away at his wife’s grip on sanity … 4 stars from Claire Allfree, Metro, 13 January 2017

This suspenseful play kept me engaged throughout, with each character easily holding my attention. It’s a production that had everything, from gradually building tension to surprising but greatly welcome humour. It’s a shame it wasn’t longer, though – it was such a pleasure to watch that the time flew by way too quickly. Gaslight is definitely one not to be missed. 5 stars from Rhian Atherton, What’s On Birmingham, 11 January 2017

Jack is an increasingly unstable person and there were moments during the performance where the audience were genuinely shocked at the relationship breakdown between the couple; however this is to the credit of Young and Tointon with some incredibly intense and believable action on stage. … If you want to watch a play and like a twist, then this is for you. Witty, mysterious and beautiful all at the same time. Review by Matt Dudley, Black Country Radio, 11 January 2017

Rounding out the cast is the brilliant Helen Anderson as Elizabeth the housekeeper, and the delightful Charlotte Blackledge as the sassy and flirtacious maid Nancy. Anderson is a master at playing an audience and her scenes with Rupert Young’s darkly disturbing Mr Manningham are particularly enjoyable. Charlotte Blackledge, as Nancy, gets the majority of the laughs of the night, flouncing about with a sour look for her mistress and a lusty one for her master. It is clear director Anthony Banks has had lots of fun in the rehearsal room and the cast mesh beautifully. … A thoroughly exciting evening, with a great cast, Gaslight remains a pertinent piece. 4 stars from Carly Halse, Female Arts, 16 January 2017

Rupert Young gives an outstanding performance. He is completely despicable as Jack Manning the coercive, cruel and calculating husband. His manipulative, menacing character is truly hateful. … This psychological thriller, with palpable moments of edge of the seat tension is a real must see production. 3 stars from Melanie Mitchell, Rewrite This Story, 23 January 2017

The plot is by no mean the most challenging of whodunnits, but the production is well worth seeing. The casting is excellent. Rupert Young towers over Kara Tointon’s slight and frail-looking figure, emphasising visually how his character is able to dominate her. And Keith Allen’s bewhiskered detective adds many moments of levity to such a dark plot. The play is driven along by the skills of the lead actors. In particular, Keith Allen, who encompasses the voracious, and sometimes excitable, character of Rough with great aplomb and adds some wonderful comedic moments. Review by Steve Cowell, York Mix, 31 January 2017

Rupert Young as Jack shows enormous stage presence, physically towering over the frail and pasty Bella as he switches from unctuous and patronising to a furious bully in an instant. … The wonderful set and costumes focus our attention on the drama and the details. However, it’s the acting of the three main characters that carry this through – as an audience we know what’s coming, and Gaslight is all the more fun for that. A great evening, catch it if you can. Review by Gary Cook, The Brighton Magazine, 7 February 2017

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. Review by Hannah Hopkins, Quench, 14 March 2017

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