Friday, 25 October 2019

REVIEW: Gaslight at The Playground Theatre

Patrick Hamilton’s Gaslight, first presented in Richmond in 1938, is set in the house of a Victorian couple, Jack and Bella Manningham (Jordan Wallace, Jemima Murphy). Gaslight was the first artistic representation of psychological and domestic abuse, with the name being used to describe the behaviour to this day. As Director Imy Wyatt Corner notes, the play is scarily accurate of the emotional abuse seen in Love Island and even Strictly Come Dancing.

Mrs Cunningham desperately wants to please her unimpressed husband but has been having forgetful moments and is being driven to believe she is going insane; pictures on the wall and important paperwork have gone missing and been found hidden away in her possession. Narcissistic Mr Cunningham mysteriously leaves the house each night, crazing his wife as she hears footsteps upstairs. Despite the maids- loyal Elizabeth (Rebecca Ashley) and flirtatious Nancy (Grace Howard)- potentially knowing of the horrors going on in the house, this chilling situation is only intervened when a man, known as Rough (Joe Mcardle), arrives at the house one day to unveil secrets and save Mrs Cunningham from her own mind. 

The dark and brooding nature of Gaslight is given some comedy relief with Rough, who should be credited for uplifting the show. Murphy embodies the character of the grave, internalised woman being tormented by people in her own home and grabs the audience attention through her changing moods. Elements of the script did not seem fitting with the Victorian-nature, with moments being confused between old era and modern. Several of the actors appeared uncomfortable onstage and struggled to relax into the scenes, this meant the dialogue came across a little forced and moments of tension or passion were completely lost. 

Kate Halstead’s quintessential set is seemingly idyllic with adorable tea cups and Baker miller Pink carpet (theoretically proven to calm people down In prisons and hospitals). Gregory Jordan’s lighting design added the tension, with flickering ‘gas lamps’ spookily lighting up the stage.

For fans of murder mysteries and gothic tales, Gaslight is perfect. I was anticipating further twists and turns in the storyline, but it was an overall enjoyable, atmospheric piece. 

Review by Hannah Storey

Rating: ★★★

Seat: Unreserved | Price of Ticket: £22
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