by Patrick Hamilton.
Clwyd Theatre Cymru (Emlyn Williams Theatre) To 23 April 2011.
Runs 2hr 5min No interval.
Review: Timothy Ramsden 16 April.
Old play made new in brilliantly-conceived revival.
So, Kate Wasserberg, Mold’s ‘Director: New Plays’, produces Patrick Hamilton’s 1938 repertory standby. How old does a play have to be not to be ‘new’ in Mold?
It scarcely matters when the result is as compelling as this. Set in Victorian London, Gaslight‘s mood is the depressive 20th-century author’s own, the crime-plot’s ‘happy’ outcome hardly removing the oppressive weight – Jack Manningham’s psychological bullying of a mentally vulnerable wife remains the dominant impression.
For all ex-detective Rough, without whose accidental discovery of the Bellinghams Bella would have been tortured into insanity or death, cheers her up, her husband’s personality affects her to the end where, the tables turned, she taunts him in revenge.
At this end, Manningham seems too compliant; Rough should need police reinforcements. That apart, Wasserberg creates a breath-holding claustrophobia, constricting the usually spacious Emlyn Williams Theatre by performing in the round.
Played without an interval (the cast having to smooth the gear-shift at the act-joins), there’s a constant sense of confinement from designer Mark Bailey’s tilted ceiling, covering much of the stage, with its otherwise dark, realistic furnishings.
But the main visual impact comes through Nick Beadle’s lighting. The room is defined by a sharp white beam shining only where the ceiling doesn’t prevent it. The result is a shadowy, darkening place – even when the lamps are lit. As the floor above and the changing intensity of the room’s lighting are significant for the plot, narrative and mood are both intensified.
Nowhere more than in Jack Manningham’s commanding behaviour as he moves, brightly illuminated or in threatening semi-darkness. Simon Dutton’s imposing character, his grave voice forever pushing Bella’s mind where he wants it to go, physical threat being added as he removes his jacket to force information from her, and Catrin Aaron’s Bella, rising in hope then sinking near despair, are figures living in darkness, as is Remy Beasley maid, her sexual insolence caught through the delays in replying as she calculates her best advantage.
Both the loyal housekeeper Elizabeth and policeman Rough are noticeably Welsh in voice, which makes its point in this London setting.
Jack Manningham: Simon Dutton.
Bella Manningham: Catrin Aaron.
Elizabeth: Betsan Llwyd.
Nancy: Remy Beasley.
Inspector Rough: Llion Williams.
Director: Kate Wasserberg.
Designer: Mark Bailey.
Lighting: Nick Beadle.
Sound: Matthew Williams.
Assistant director: Lora Davies.