As an actor, it’s not often you get the opportunity to be a part of such a powerful play – one that shocks its audience, carrying them through a rollercoaster of emotions from hatred and fear to sympathy and delight. That’s exactly what you get with Gaslight, a play so powerful it inspired a scientific term – ‘gaslighting’ – the form of psychological abuse that Mr Manningham employs so effectively on his wife.
I’ve had the privilege of playing the nasty Jack Manningham at The New Millennium Theatre, Rossendale and Colne Little Theatre and thoroughly enjoyed both versions. Though not popular with audiences (for obvious reasons), Manningham’s coldness is vital in bringing out his wife’s fragility and fear, and eliciting sympathy from Rough and the audience for her predicament.
Any play is a collaboration between the cast, crew and director and the resulting performance on stage becomes their interpretation of how the play should be performed. A previous involvement in a play undoubtedly influences your view of how a play should ‘work’, making objectivity almost impossible. This was my difficulty having seen Gaslight twice at other venues. I must stress that my comments are purely my own opinions, and just because others have interpreted Gaslight differently doesn’t make that interpretation ‘wrong’.
I enjoyed the production at Altrincham Garrick Playhouse recently. It had a creative triangular set enabling the audience to see into the rooms behind leading to a heart stopping dramatic scene between Jack and Elizabeth in Act Two. The downside for me was that the ending had been changed; clever, but it changed whole intention of the play and I doubt it was what the playwright intended.
Another performance was at York’s Grand Opera House starring Kara Tointon and Keith Allen. With such a cast I was expecting great things and the acting was certainly first class, but I think the intention was to play the original melodrama with humour. The Manninghams were far too loving and playful, there was no nastiness or fear; it wasn’t the psychological thriller that Gaslight is billed as.
Having seen Oldham Coliseum Theatre’s trailer for Gaslight, with cast interviews and scenes from rehearsals, it looks like it will be a stunning performance. Bella is in tears – even in rehearsals – meaning all the fear and anxieties must be very real, so Jack too must be playing his part convincingly. Definitely one not to miss. I look forward to seeing it, as you should too.
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