• Amy Toledano

Gaslight by Patrick Hamilton and presented by First Floor Presents

Image courtesy of William Waterworth

What is it?

A revival of the 1938 play by Patrick Hamilton, with more focus on the startling similarities between the abuse of women 80 years ago, and women today.

What is it all about?

The ideal couple, Jack (Jordan Wallace) and Bella Mannningham (Jemima Murphy) spend another quiet afternoon having tea. Bella has been feeling unwell of late, with the lights in her house playing tricks on her mind, and losing touch with what she does and does not know. Jack, has tried to be patient with her but things are falling apart as Bella misplaces another item that belongs to her husband, which leads to him giving her a nasty ultimatum.

The housekeepers are also no help, as the flirtatious Nancy (Grace Howard) constantly seeks to embarrass Bella, and Elizabeth (Rebecca Ashley) seems to turn a blind eye.

But everything changes when a stranger enters the house while her husband is out, and provides Bella with a shocking revelation about the man she thought she married.

How did it make me feel?

I was really excited to see what this company had done with this particular piece of theatre. And while it is plain to see why the play was such a success at the time of its first production, the things that set it apart in the early 1940s, forces it to blend into the woodwork in 2019.

Because while the company performed well, and the set design and lighting was clever and interesting, what I still ended up watching was an hour and a half of a woman being abused, by every man in the piece (even the one that "saves" her) for the sake of entertainment. The other female characters in turn are presented as two dimensional and at times, outwardly cruel and vindictive, and not representative of a real people at all.

I can understand what the company is trying the achieve, but it only serves to frustrate and present the audience with another story at a woman's expense. Even the few moments that Bella has to put her husband in his place are fleeting, and she is left, once again, thanking a man for making everything better.

At a time like this what is the point in looking back at pieces such as these? Shouldn't we be looking for work that celebrates and represents women as they are now? And create solutions instead of reiterating what is wrong? We as women, know what is wrong so where do we go from here?

Where was it playing?

The Playground Theatre is an exciting new fringe theatre space that allows for Gaslight to create a world that is eerie and uncomfortable. The carpets are a nice touch and the lighting design plays an important role in the overall arc of this story.

Anything else?

The cast and creative team do their best with a play that has become dated and stale, and sadly do not create the important political statement that could have been made here.

Amy x

Gaslight is playing at The Playground Theatre until the 10th November 2019.

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