Review: GASLIGHT at Comedy Theatre

Gaslight is a night out at the theatre that you don’t want to miss!

By: Mar. 11, 2024
Review: GASLIGHT at Comedy Theatre
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The psychological drama Gaslight, thrills Melbourne audiences at the Comedy Theatre. This must-see theatrical experience is only in Melbourne for three weeks, so make sure to get your tickets quick! 5 STARS.
 
 
Gaslight’s story sits somewhere between an Agatha Christie mystery and an Alfred Hitchcock thriller. Bella, the plays protagonist, appears to be moving household items and forgetting where and when she did this… according to her husband anyway. Bella also starts to hear noises and notice gaslights in the house slightly dimming when her husband goes out, despite the servants not being aware. What does this all mean? Is this madness or manipulation? This adaptation of Patrick Hamilton’s classic 1938 play, Gas Light, has been brought to new life and made much more contextually relevant for a contemporary audience, through the talented writing of Johnaa Wright and Patty Jamieson.
 

The original British Victorian Gothic thriller play, Gas Light, by Patrick Hamilton, has had a long history of success. Originally premiering in London in 1938, Gas Light was transferred to the West End, before then being made into a film in 1940, called Gaslight. In 1941 it made its North American debut in Los Angeles under the name Five Chelsea Lane, and was then transferred to Broadway, where its name was changed again to Angel St. Such was Angel St’s success, the play became one of the longest running shows on Broadway, that was not a musical, with 1,295 performances. It is therefore no surprise that it was made into another film in 1944, once again under the title Gaslight. A fun fact of this film version is that it featured a 17-year-old Angela Lansbury in her film debut, as the story’s blunt and abrupt maid, Nancy!

Review: GASLIGHT at Comedy Theatre
Toby Schmitz & Geraldine Hakewill
Photo by Brett Boardman Photography

It appears in the 21st Century that Gaslight has made a resurrection, becoming the inspiration behind the contemporary term ‘gaslighting’, which refers to the psychological manipulation of an individual, by planting a seed of self-doubt and causing that person to second guess themselves. Yet as detailed in Gaslight’s program, by both the talented writers of this adaptation, Johnna Wright and Patty Jamieson, and also by Gaslight’s superb director, Lee Lewis, the original piece did have some dated views, particular around women. Thankfully for us, living in 2024, Wright and Jamieson’s clever and intelligent interpretation of Hamilton’s original text, which originally premiered in 2022 at Canada’s Shaw Festival, helps create a much more three-dimensional viewpoint of a ‘woman in distress’, while still maintaining the play’s original late nineteenth century setting. Without giving too much away, Wright and Jamieson’s adaptation of Gaslight, gives the female protagonist, Bella, a chance to save herself. This is cleverly orchestrated through the thoughtful deletion of the detective character from the original storyline.

Director Lee Lewis does wonders in this Australian season of Gaslight. Renee Mulder’s scenic and costume design is both lavish and pivotal to Gaslight’s storyline, and Paul Jackson’s lighting design, really helps to amplify the Hitchcock and ‘film noir’ elements of this late nineteenth century drama. The four actors in this show (Geraldine Hakewill as Bella, Toby Schmitz as Jack, Kate Fitzpatrick as Elizabeth and Courtney Cavllaro as Nancy) are all strong. In particular, Geraldine Hakewill must be applauded for her strong interpretation of a ‘damsel in distress’ who reclaims her own narrative.

Gaslight is a night out at the theatre that you don’t want to miss!

Review: GASLIGHT at Comedy Theatre
Kate Fitzpatrick, Courtney Cavallaro & Toby Schmitz
Photo by Brett Boardman Photography



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