BELLA Manningham (Kate Blackhurst) has been going mad – or so she has been told.
Her husband Jack (Peter Holland) raves at her about her mistakes and lapses, threatening to lock her up if she does not fix herself. But is Bella really mad or is this someone’s plot to convince her she is crazy?
Holland’s Jack is a sociopathically cruel martinet and from very early in the play it is obvious Bella is the victim of domestic violence. The most powerful scene of the play has Bella alone in the house desperately trying to find a “lost” bill that cannot be found. This moment perfectly captures how trapped women in abusive relationships can feel.
However Pat Gallagher’s retired Inspector Rough provides hope when he makes an appearance and tells Bella an elaborate, fanciful story about a fortune in rubies hidden in the house. He sketches a dark past for her husband that involves not only murder and bigamy but, most damning, a sojourn in Australia. But could this Inspector and his story themselves be just more delusions?
Director barb barnett provides us with a compelling and truthful psychological portrait of abuse, however the script calls for more paranoia and ambiguity to keep the audience guessing. Jack is portrayed as an outright villain rather than a man driven to cruelty out of desperation, and this strangles the potential interpretations of the mystery.
Nonetheless, “Gaslight” is entertaining and spooky, with witty jokes and intense drama enlivening its otherwise predictable journey.