You pretty well know what you’re going to get with Gaslight, the Victorian mystery thriller at Oldham Coliseum.  It’s an incredibly popular choice amongst audiences, and why not, it’s a well written play with fascinating themes.

Writer Patrick Hamilton addresses the way in which a man can manipulate his wife, making her doubt her own mind.  There are always challenges in presenting historical plays, this one written in 1938 but set in the Victorian era.  This is  especially tricky with some scenes, for example those involving Inspector Rough, firmly fixing the Victorian setting of the play.  But other scenes, principally those between the married Manninghams, address issues that are as relevant today as when it was set.  New UK legislation in 2015 states that ‘Controlling or coercive behaviour does not relate to a single incident, it is a purposeful pattern of behaviour which takes place over time in order for one individual to exert power, control or coercion over another.’  

The production itself is very effective, with great atmosphere.  The setting is the drawing room of a large Victorian house, dark and red, the lighting subdued and yellow, all threat and isolation.  Well acted, with great contrast between the manipulative husband (Damien Matthews), his conflicted wife (Catherine Kinsella), modern, confident maid Nancy (Amy Gavin), the all seeing Elizabeth (Sue Twist) and slightly stereotyped Scottish inspector Rough (Paul Webster).

An excellent production of a classic play, very much in the spirit of the way it was written.

At Oldham Coliseum 3 – 18 February, more details here.

photo: Joel C Fildes

Theatre lover, amateur director, occasional actor, writer.

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