While Jack Manningham is out on the town each evening, his wife Bella (Pike), stays at home alone, believing she’s losing her mind: she can’t explain the disappearance of familiar objects, the footsteps overhead or the ghostly flickering of living room gaslights. However, questions about Jack’s behaviour and true identity are aroused following the unexpected arrival of Detective Rough (Cranham).
English novelist and playwright Hamilton (whose other big theatrical hit was Rope) wrote Gaslight for the stage in 1938. It was adapted for the British screen in 1940 and, four years later, was made into a much more famous Hollywood version directed by George Cukor and starring Ingrid Bergman, who won a Best Actress Oscar for her role as the psychologically terrorised young wife.
In the Old Vic cast, Pike and Cranham are joined by Andrew Woodall as the evil husband, and Rowena Cooper and Sally Tatum as housemaids who become embroiled in the evening’s intrigue. The production is designed by Hayden Griffin, with lighting by Hartley TA Kemp.
First night critics were all intrigued, if not shocked, by the Old Vic’s programming choice, but while most welcomed the revival of Hamilton’s admittedly old-fashioned and “creaky” piece, one found the play’s creakiness raised only inappropriate laughter. After her Whatsonstage.com Award-nominated performance in last autumn’s West End revival of Tennessee Williams’ Summer and Smoke, Rosamund Pike received a fresh round of warm notices for her latest frail and “luminous” period beauty – “fair Rosamund alone is worth travelling a long way to catch”, declared one critic. There was also praise for Kenneth Cranham, whose previous stage credits include the title role in An Inspector Calls, as the “wily” and “unexpectedly funny” retired detective.
- by Terri Paddock
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