Writer: Patrick Hamilton
Director: Robin Herford
Reviewer: Rebecca Cohen
He has directed the critically-acclaimed adaptation of The Woman in Black, and now Robin Herford is thrilling audiences once more – this time with Patrick Hamilton’s 1939 Victorian mystery play Gaslight.
Running at the Oldham Coliseum, this is a production that is at once dark and comedic, combining a gripping and disturbing plot with moments of well-timed humour. It tells the story of life behind the closed doors of number nine Thornton Square, where Mr. and Mrs. Manningham (Damien Matthews and Catherine Kinsella) are seemingly living in married bliss, alongside their domestic staff Nancy (Amy Gavin) and Elizabeth (Sue Twist). But, as Mrs. Manningham continues to thinks she is losing her mind, ready to follow in the footsteps of her own mother who was consigned to the asylum, the audience begin to see that not all is as it seems. The leading lady is, in fact, the victim of gaslighting – a mental torture, a manipulation, a method that not only makes her doubt her memory but her sanity as well. Can the eccentric detective Rough, played by the outstanding Paul Webster, help her to get out of the never-ending routine of torture, and start to regain some control in her life? That’s for audiences to find out for themselves…
This is not a psychological thriller in the sense that it will have you jumping from your seat, but it plays with the mind and is unsettling, in a way that mirrors the female protagonist’s own personal battle. It is not the anticipated ending and neither is it disappointing, but you can’t help but feel that after such a gripping build up, there should be even more to conclude this drama.
The production, for its entire duration, is set in just one room of the marital home and is a helpful tool in bringing authenticity to both the play and its diverse set of characters. Designer Michael Holt and Lighting Designer Jason Taylor do a fantastic job of emulating the Victorian drawing room, with each prop, lighting rig, and positioning of furniture being perfectly thought through.
The actors, as well, do an incredible job of bringing the script to life, Webster, in particular giving his character a number of quirks and idiosyncrasies that makes him captivating to watch. Perhaps, at times, the acting is a little on the declamatory side, but this does not distract from the overall quality of the production. Herford has once again proven his astounding ability to bringing the thriller to life, and his latest offering of Gaslight is now continuing to burn bright in Oldham. A show guaranteed to brighten up a dull February evening – don’t miss out!
Runs until 18 February 2017 | Image: Joel C Fildes