For our upcoming production of Patrick Hamilton’s engaging psychological thriller Gaslight, musicologist Andrew H. King talks with director Robin Herford about music and how its relationship to the theatre can enhance our experience of drama.
Emerging from the morning rehearsal, a mug of soup in one hand and a biscuit in the other, we sat in the Coliseum’s Circle Bar and queried “Why any music at all?”
“When choosing the music for a play it must be specific and sympathetic; sometimes the absence of music can be equally potent. Whilst a lilting string quartet might suggest calm, peacefulness, and the civilised comfort of home, silence can be equally suggestive of tension. The right music chosen sensitively to time, place and mood can help us to see what is in front of us more clearly by reinforcing a mental, imagined image with the physical one – it’s no good having an enormous orchestra when you’re trying to establish a scene set in a Victorian drawing room. When reading a script, sometimes the opportunities for music will be instinctive and develop organically, and in this case the music choices might also be obvious. Generally the selections are personal to the director and when you know that music is needed but you just can’t put your finger on what, it can be the biggest headache!
Gaslight is a very ‘dark’ play and the sense of suspense, foreboding and ultimate revelation come naturally from the text, but theatre is a highly suggestible art form and things that are ordinary seem extraordinary when on stage, consequently the presence of music can heighten audience experience by contributing an extra dimension to something that is already helping you witness something from a new perspective. Naturally, you don’t want it to be over-bearing or dominate the scene, it can almost be like an extra character, but not one you want to upstage the drama itself; music must complement it.”
Andrew H. King, 2017