Review of Gaslight, Royal & Derngate, Northampton. (Press night performance)
By Hilary Scott
YOU usually find mention of the set design for a new theatre production much further down in a review, but in Gaslight at Northampton’s Royal Theatre the stage is the first star you lay eyes on.
With the action confined to the classic ‘one-room-in-a-period-setting’, it’s a tough job to be original.
But William Dudley and the Royal’s set-production team have created a stunningly clever Ames Room – one of those that alters your perception of the things within it – which perfectly reflects the theme of the play: manipulation of someone’s mind to make them doubt their own sanity, or Gaslighting.
The use of clever modern video projection, in a 130-year-old theatre, for a play set in stifling the stifling late Victorian age shouldn’t work – yet it does, brilliantly (except for one very ridiculous section near the end which doesn’t, and made us laugh when we should be shocked).
We had no time to leaf through the programme beforehand, which is just as well, because then we had no spoilers or expectations. This is a psychological thriller, which made the entire audience shift uncomfortably in its seats as the stellar cast messed with our minds.
Tara Fitzgerald is exquisite as the vulnerable, bullied Bella Manningham, running the gauntlet in her own house between her domineering husband Jack, played menacingly by Jonathan Firth (I was two-thirds through before I recognized him as Colin’s brother), the servants, and her own sanity.
Fitzgerald stars in the globally popular Game of Thrones and I suspect a percentage of the packed audience was there to see her.
Is her encounter with her apparent saviour, the rosy-cheeked Inspector Rough (Paul Hunter), just another example of her mind playing tricks?
No spoilers: You’ll have to go and see for yourselves.
Gaslight, a Made in Northampton production, runs at Royal & Derngate until November 7. Box Office on 01604 624811 or visit www.royalandderngate.co.uk