Gaslight at the Playground Theatre
Gaslight burns brightly at the Playground Theatre. This gripping thriller, full of mystery and torment, is perhaps more significant today than it ever has been.
A revival of Patrick Hamilton’s 1930’s play feels long overdue. In the last decade the term “gaslighting” – psychologically manipulating someone into doubting themselves – has had a renewal of interest. This kind of abuse is all too often found in relationships, in the workplace, in politics and more. That nearly 100 years later, the name of this play is still used to describe this manipulation speaks to its power.
Bella Manningham seems to be losing her mind. She keeps doing strange things, like moving paintings or hiding her own belongings, without any memory of having done them. And her loving husband Jack, who has been ever so patient, is now at his wits’ end. But as a stranger appears, the story starts to unravel.
On Kate Halstead’s striking pink set, Jemima Murphy puts in a wonderful performance as Bella. Every word she utters and every movement she makes is edge-of-seat stuff as the character finds herself at the edge of her mind. Joe McArdle is also mesmerising to watch as Rough, with his manic and excitable temperament.
Of course Hamilton’s narrative, his dialogue, his twists and turns, are the real hero of this production. The back-and-forth between Bella and Rough makes for a phenomenal piece of theatre alone, and the manipulative tricks and words that run through the play are both terrifying and spellbinding.
Gaslight is a thoroughly interesting story that will have audiences obsessed from start to finish. But it carries a timely message too. And while fantastical in places, it would be wrong to dismiss what is seen in the play as an extreme or unrealistic form of gaslighting. The ends may be remarkable, but the means are to be found in too many relationships even today, nearly a century after the first performance.
Featured photo: William Waterworth
Gaslight is at the Playground Theatre from 21st October until 10th November 2019. For further information or to book visit the theatre’s website here.