Review: Gaslight, Ecclesall Parish Hall

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Director Sue Preston has dished up a chilling mystery thriller. Set in late nineteenth century London, Patrick Hamilton’s atmospheric play imagines a foggy capital with Jack the Ripper hiding in the shadows, without us ever leaving the wonderful Victorian living room of the Manningham house.

Michael Dodsworth is quietly malevolent as Jack who subjects wife Bella, played by Sarah Rose to continuous mental cruelty.

It is extremely uncomfortable viewing to watch Jack accusing Bella of moving pictures, and losing documents and jewellery when he has clearly hidden them. He then treats her like a strict Victorian father might behave towards his child. Rose effectively displays intense emotional anguish. She is on a knife edge as one moment’s feigned kindness from Jack is swiftly followed by calculated hostility.

Dodsworth’s Jack is a true sociopath. As well as psychological brutality, his rap sheet includes serial adultery, bigamy, drinking, theft and possible murder. Husband of the year, he ain’t.

Gerald Brown is excellent as Inspector Rough, her unexpected guardian angel. His benevolent humour gradually eradicates her treacle-like stagnant inertia and his placebo home brew dissipates her confused stupor. As Bella holds Rough’s hands and looks into his eyes she knows she can instinctively trust him when she never really trusted her husband.

Charlotte Wetherill is Nancy the maid who inexplicably falls for Jack and Jane Shawyer is Elizabeth the housekeeper.

It’s an intriguing presentation which has the audience doing their own detective work and ties up the loose ends in a satisfying denouement.