GASLIGHT – State Theatre Company South Australia – Her Majesty’s Theatre- 4K

By Fiona Talbot – Leigh

How wonderful to be back in a theatre again and to be privy to State Theatre’s opening night of Gaslight at the newly  built’ Her Majesty’s’ made it a night to remember.

Catherine Fitzgerald has brought to the stage a strong ensemble who worked well together to bring Patrick Hamilton’s fabulous script to life.  Sadly the story of Gaslight never grows old as even today’s society are all but too familiar with the term.

Set in the later part of the 19th century, the drama unfolds in the space of one afternoon and the subsequent evening. Before the curtain rises however, to set the scene, Eileen Darley delivers a tongue in cheek song in the old vaudeville style complete with top hat and tails reminiscent of music hall star Vesta Tilley. Fitzgerald’s nod and wink to the male impersonator from yesteryear was a delightful introduction to this eerie and dramatic tale.

Bella Manningham played to perfection by Ksenja Logos, is living a life of isolation and fear. Her marriage of seven years to Jack is in question as is the state of her own mind. She is hearing noises, treasured possessions are being moved or lost altogether, the gas light in the drawing room dims on a regular basis and the constant threat of being taken to an asylum by her husband causes Bella to all but lose faith in herself.

Jack toys with his young wife, demeaning her at every opportunity and treating her like a child. Nathan O’Keefe’s performance as Jack Manningham is chilling to watch. His voice, mannerisms and demeanor, portrayed all that and more of a man of the Victorian era who sees himself as the opulent gentleman.

A real cat and mouse game ensues and it was quite terrifying to see exactly how much power a husband could wield over his wife. Add to this her isolation in the house and we truly begin to see Bella unravel.

Fortunately, Bella does have an ally, in the form of Inspector Rough brilliantly portrayed by Eileen Darley. I applaud Fitzgerald’s decision to place a woman in this male role. Darley’s characterization brought real depth to the Inspector and she was in good company with Katherine Sortini who played Nancy and Ellen Freeman who played Elizabeth, reveling in their roles of servants and later comically as the constables.

The overall performance is peppered with humour and set against Alisa Paterson’s warm set with Nic Mollison’s creative lighting, makes this a show to see. The season has sold out but an extra matinee show has been added on Saturday the 19th of September at 2pm to cater for the ever increasing audience of this timeless piece.


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