Skip to main content

Review of Patrick Hamilton's Gaslight (Preview) at Royal & Derngate (Royal), Northampton

It is a rule not to review previews of performances and most recently this has hit the headlines more with naughty media antics of Benedict Cumberbatch's opening night of Hamlet. This weekend I was present to see two previews of Made In Northampton's latest offering, Gaslight. I don't get to see the finished product for a fortnight and by then it will be near the end of its run, so it leaves me in a tricky situation, to review now or wait until its almost over. It is however a simple answer, review now, because although they were were previews, they were both performances of an excellent quality in any case (with just a hint of differences at work between shows) that I have no particular need to criticize.

Gaslight is a 1938 play written by Patrick Hamilton and tells the tale of an evening in the life of Jack and Bella Manningham at home in 1880. Telling a tale of part psychological thriller, part mystery and more importantly what amounts to domestic violence, it is a cleverly crafted play and director Laura Bailey has created on the intimate Royal stage a period piece of atmospheric perfection.

Working with Chris Davey's perfect "gaslight" environment lighting and the superbly clever, all smart and clever angles set from William Dudley, The scene is indeed set long before we fall into the tale that the five main strong cast provides. Indeed Mic Pool on sound design has his own say with the stunningly perfect distant call of the muffin man to open the play. That very sound truly sounds as if it is rising from the streets below. The scene is most truly set before a line of dialogue is spoken like no other Made In Northampton play I have seen.

Bella is played by Tara Fitzgerald, a face no doubt familiar to many from television and film and on stage she is no less captivating. Playing the role with the perfect delicate balance of fragility and then joy required against the totally monstrous Jack. Playing him is Jonathan Firth and this is a wonderfully creepy performance with switches in manner perfectly controlled. Never knowing from one moment which Jack you are going to get leaves both his wife and the audience on edge. He also looks the part as a Victorian chap as well.

Perhaps the star for me though and often the case is the character who occasional brings light relief to an often dark play. Paul Hunter (director of MIN's Every Last Trick) is, simple fact, perfection in his role as the retired detective Rough, strutting poses about the stage like some gentlemanly Madonna (I hope they survive transition from the previews as they were toned down in the second preview I saw). He is without doubt a hit with the audience. Not to say that his role is all comedy value as he brings many tough and dramatic moments to the stage not least the clever "stirring" moment (excellent work once again from sound).

The final two actors are also of exceptional quality, with the very London town Nancy played deliciously by Alexandra Guelff. Manipulative, often a little cold but constantly alluring, it is indeed a striking achievement. Veronica Roberts as Elizabeth is wonderfully wholesome and friendly. Her moments silently observing the dressing room are quite delightful.

The only "incidents" of note during the previews, particularly the second one, were the "handcuffs and rope" and "coat and tray", the latter literally just a live moment, but dealt with so perfectly by Hunter that I was almost grateful they had happened, just for those ad libbed moments. I suspect that the cuffs and rope part will get a bit of work out of the previews though, as it was slightly awkward both nights.

The final mention must go to Karl Dixon for the video programming work. What might feel at first to be a little out of place in the play set in Victorian London, quickly becomes just right for it. Offering a dynamic and latterly disturbing bit of imaginary (and an interesting link back to the previous Made In Northampton).

So on a clever set with smart uses of see through backdrops, Bailey has crafted a wonderful piece of art. Moments like the startling appearance of the murderous apparition and the silently observing Rough, offer great ideas and make this a play you must guarantee to catch as soon as you can. On the back of the theatres award win, the Made In Northampton range has perhaps created one of its best with this gem of a piece.

««««½
A PREVIEW REVIEW


Performance reviewed PREVIEWS: Friday 16th/Saturday 17th October, 2015 at the Royal & Derngate (Royal), Northampton.


Gaslight runs at the Royal & Derngate until Saturday 7th November, 2015.
Details here: http://www.royalandderngate.co.uk/whatson/2015-2016/Royal/Gaslight

For further details visit the Royal & Derngate website at http://www.royalandderngate.co.uk/
Image copyright: Royal & Derngate

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Review of Rules For Living at Royal & Derngate (Royal), Northampton

It is possibly a rule in life for a few in the audience for the opening night of Sam Holcroft's domestic comedy Rules For Living not to mention Christmas until December. Therefore anyone of such a persuasion might have been a little perturbed to be presented on the 13th September with, an undeniably brilliantly dressed, homely Christmas scene.

Opening up in glorious dollhouse style and on a gorgeous little hinge, this little home of living room and kitchen sets the scene for a typical family Christmas. Mother Edith (Jane Booker) welcomes her sons, Matthew (Jolyon Coy) and Adam (Ed Hughes) and their respective partners, Carrie (Carlyss Peer) and Nicole (Laura Rogers) And with a final dramatic arrival of father Francis (Paul Shelley), the scene is very much set for comic antics of the highest calibre.

The first thing you get from Rules For Living in the first few minutes is the arrival of one of the most brilliant, yet simple concepts I have seen for a while in the play. These are …

Review of Make Way For Lucia by John Van Druten at The Playhouse Theatre, Northampton

There have been a couple of television versions of the Mapp & Lucia novels by E. F. Benson over the years and irrespective of which generation version you might have seen, the roles of Miss Mapp and Mrs. Lucas were filled with some heavyweight performers. So taking on these roles could, in theory, be a challenge too much to live up to. However, that would be if the characters themselves were less the sum of the performer. These are great characters on paper as well as on stage and therefore Gena McCrystal (Miss Mapp) and Juliet O'Connor (Lucia) make them very much their own in the stage adaption by John Van Druten.

Lucia has arrived and breezed both into the town of Tilling and the musical chair roundabout of house rental that is want to occur here. Her rented property is Miss Mapp's and for some reason, Mapp fails to follow the routine of keeping away, constantly "popping in", so the battle lines are drawn.
Make Way for Lucia is the typical battle of supremacy i…

Review of Once Upon A Grimm Tale by The Royal & Derngate Actors Company (Early) at Judge's Lodgings, Northampton

Once upon a time, there was a brave theatrical reviewer. He lived in a market town in deepest darkest Englaland, where many great and remarkable things of stage did occur. At the centre of this wondrous world of performing spectacles was a place referred to by many as the Royal Derngatus, a place of people pretending to be other people and telling tales of mystery, intrigue and frolics.

Within the fortressed walls of Royal Derngatus, there were a group of fearless players who entertained local folk for no reward, other than the thrill of seeing the joy in the faces of others. Those group of artists went by the name of Actors Companus, which many pronounced carefully when they did say it out loud. This group of merry men and women did have two forms, an early and a late, and but two days before this adventurous evening of forthcoming storytelling, the late group did perform for a third and final time a most amazing feat of theatre, going by the name of Great Expectations.


Our hero of thi…