Gaslight at Blue Bridge Theatre October 21-November 2, 2014. A review.

Gaslight, currently at Blue Bridge Repertory Theatre’s Roxy (in Quadra Village), October 21-November 2, 2014 is an intense game of cat-and-mouse that will have you perched on the edge of your seat.

Written in 1936 in the style of a Victorian thriller, but bearing none of the signature over-the-top melodrama, Patrick Hamilton’s classic harkens back to a simpler time while retaining a modern sensibility in the script. It becomes apparent soon after the opening scene in the Manningham’s drawing room that all is not well between husband Jack (Adrian Hough) and his wife Bella (Thea Gill).

Gaslight1Mr Manningham (Adrian Hough) and Mrs Manningham (Thea Gill). Photo: Geoffrey Ewert

Despite the soothing sounds of classic piano in the background (sound design Paul Tedeschini) and the rich comfort of the upper-class interior (set design Bryan Kenney) there is tension and even uncertainty in the air, indicated in the slightest pull on the stitches as Bella embroiders.

Dastardly and minus only the twirling moustache, Hough is fully in control of every jab and thrust as if a picador testing the strength of his victim. Despite her fragile nature, there is a glimmer of resistance in Gill’s Bella that is quickly and cruelly quashed.

In this psychological torment, Jack has a most willing accomplice in the cheeky young maid Nancy (Grace Vukovic) with her laconic responses laden with innuendo. That older maid Elizabeth (Iris MacGregor-Bannerman) would come to her mistress’s aid is evident—but impossible initially.

Suspense builds as everyone chooses sides and bides their time.

Salvation arrives for Bella with the inexplicable and unexpected arrival of retired detective Rough (Wes Borg). Award-winning comedian Borg is the delightful surprise of this production—restrained, thoughtful, perspicacious and persistent as he slowly unravels the mystery for Bella, and restores her confidence. Into this sombre drama, he injects light touches of laughter, while maintaining the sense of real danger in the enterprise of smoking out the culprit.

Buoyed with new confidence and some surprising discoveries, Bella and her accomplices prepare to do dangerous battle with their nemesis.

Lighting (Rebekah Johnson) aptly captures not only the time of day, but the many emotional moods of the characters.  The beautiful and subtle blue at the beginning of act two hints at calm before the storm.

Costumes by Graham McMonagle make us wish for a time of bustles, rustling taffeta crisp white linens, top hats and tweed overcoats and underline the sense of propriety and ceremony evident in Victorian times.

Determined by his atavistic nature to prevail and confident of his victory over Bella, Jack is drawn to the equally cruel and amoral young maid in one final act of defiance.  Their display of mutual passion is shocking and ellicited gasps from the audience on opening night.  Newcomer Vukovic is a most unpleasant, narcissistic Nancy.

Director Brian Richmond, assisted by dramaturge Geoffrey Ewert, has explored every nuance and inflection. Despite what could be considered a straight-forward plot with a pre-determined ending, there are many twists and turns that the cast must carefully navigate in order to reach the final conclusion. Here is an ensemble worthy of the endeavour.

An elegantly structured morality tale that shows the consequences of what happens when a woman chooses the wrong man; Gaslight has thrilled audiences around the world since its theatrical premiere in 1938 and the 1944 George Cukor film of the same name starring Ingrid Bergman and Charles Boyer.

Set in a fog-bound London in 1880, Bella Manningham is slowly losing her mind. Or is she being driven into madness by her rakishly handsome and ambitious husband Jack?

Gaslight by Patrick Hamilton, directed by Brian Richmond
Blue Bridge Repertory Theatre at the Roxy (in Quadra Village)
October 21-November 2, 2014
Tickets: $20-$42 at Ticket Rocket-online, in person (#2-1609 Blanshard Street at Fisgard) or by phone 250 590 6291

Cast and Creative Team

Mrs Manningham Thea Gill
Mr Manningham Adrian Hough
Elizabeth Iris MacGregor Bannerman
Rough Wes Borg
Nancy Grace Vukovic

Director Brian Richmond
Dramaturge Geoffrey Ewert
Set Design Bryan Kenney
Costume Design Graham McMonagle
Lighting Design Rebekah Johnson
Sound Design Paul Tedeschini
Dialect Coach Iris MacGregor Bannerman
Stage Manager Kristen Iversen
Assistant Stage Manager Drew May

Disclaimer: I was graciously provided with complimentary tickets to Gaslight.

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