Review: Gaslight, Grand Opera House, York

Kara Tointon and Keith Allen in Gaslight

Kara Tointon and Keith Allen in Gaslight

Gaslight, written by Patrick Hamilton in 1938, has been given a new lease of life, and is currently on tour in the UK. The play explores the possibility of manipulation in intimate relationships, where power and control can be mistaken for love.

Directed by Anthony Banks, this powerful psychological thriller kept up the pace throughout, with David Woodhead’s detailed Victorian drawing-room set supporting the atmosphere of claustrophobia and fear felt by Bella Manningham, wonderfully portrayed by Kara Tointon, who was pathetically keen to win the approval of her controlling husband Jack, played most convincingly by Rupert Young. It soon became clear that he was psychologically abusing his wife, slowly, but surely manipulating her into believing she was going insane.

Just when you thought you couldn’t take any more of Jack’s coercive behaviour, enter eccentric retired policeman Rough, brilliantly portrayed by Keith Allen, taking on the role of guardian angel to Bella, and adding a playful presence to the proceedings, while cleverly never losing the seriousness of the situation.

Helen Anderson playing sympathetic housekeeper Elizabeth, and Charlotte Blackledge playing Nancy, the minx of a maid in the house, deserve credit too.

Without giving away too much, there are some moments in the play that made the audience gasp out loud; all credit to the cast, lighting designer, Howard Hudson, and, composition and sound design, Ben and Max Ringham, who kept us on the edge of our seats at times.