Gaslight at Salisbury Playhouse

Cast: Gemma Lawrence, Joseph Marcell, Maggie McCarthy, Daniel Pirrie, Laura Pyper.PATRICK Hamilton, who wrote Gaslight in 1938, went out of theatrical fashion long before his death in 1962.

But many regard his works, notably Hangover Square and Rope as well as Gaslight, as superior to many of his more famous contemporaries.

The thriller Gaslight, on stage at Salisbury until Saturday 1st March, has been a staple of repertory and amateur companies across the English speaking world for decades.

The second film, directed by George Cukor, won an Oscar for Ingrid Bergman as the beleaguered Bella Manningham.

Designer Helen Goddard and lighting designer Tim Mitchell have collaborated to create a chilly, atmospheric set at Salisbury Playhouse, with the ghost of yellow fog outside and the flickering of the gas light in the room where the action is based.

The louche, cruel and handsome Jack Manningham is taunting his fragile wife Bella, making her fear for her sanity.

But her saviour is at hand, in the person of a retired detective.

The tension mounts in the early scenes of Edward Dick’s production, with Laura Pyper a terrified and confused Bella, and Maggie McCarthy as her dependable housekeeper.

Joseph Marcell, best known for butling in The Fresh Prince of Bel Air, is Detective Rough, with Gemma Lawrence as the sparky Nancy and Daniel Pirrie as Jack Manningham.

It’s early days, but the critical wrong line on the night I saw the play, coupled with a less than convincing struggle between the two men resulting in a very escapable trussing to a chair, need sorting out, and fast.

Gaslight might not be cutting edge modern drama (as one audience member bemoaned) but it retains its tension and menace, and the period details are excellent in this stylish production.


Photographs by Richard Davenport

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