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3:40pm Wednesday 12th February 2014 in Entertainments
THIS “study in sustained terror” needs a Gas Safe engineer to rework its rumbling pipe work and boost dramatic pressure.
Gaslight was written in the 1930s by Patrick Hamilton and is set in the dingy late Victorian era of top hats and double standards.
But the flame of suspense flickers rather than burns in Helen Goddard’s spare oneroom set full of shadows beneath the suspended lamps.
Bella Manningham (Laura Pyper) is a prim wife who may or may not be in great danger from her manipulative husband. But having set off on a shrill, neurotic note, Pyper left herself no inner recesses to explore.
Daniel Pirrie, in a slick performance as Mr Manningham, spent a lot of time smoothing down his oiled hair in front of the mirror while being beastly to his wife about missing grocery bills.
There were hints of sexual incompatibility and Manningham leaves for a night on the town in his sinister black coat.
But many of the bullying exchanges between Manningham and his wan wife are tediously repetitive.
By contrast, a little spark glows whenever the servants – housekeeper Elizabeth, played by the excellent Maggie McCarthy and Nancy, a maid of dubious morals played by Gemma Lawrence – come above stairs. Into this gloomy household calls the retired Inspector Rough, played engagingly but without affectation by the experienced Joseph Marcell.
Are we to believe Rough and his tale of a macabre murder and a locked upper floor to which only Manningham has access?
And as Blair Mowat’s music supplies the foreboding, we ponder Rough’s motives – a man with a whisky bottle in his pocket and a mysterious degree of concern in his heart.
But when the stage is finally bathed in light through the boldly perforated set, we realise it would take more than a bold injection of camp to ignite this rusty old play’s burner.