Drama - 1949; Gaslight

 

 

1949; Gaslight

 

Gaslight, the famous Victorian thriller by Patrick Hamilton, was presented in the School Hall on January 29th & 30th. The Friday night was unfortunately that of the notorious fog which caused so much havoc in London, and the attendance was therefore very small. Saturday night's audience, though not constituting a full house, was
very appreciative.

Gaslight needs very much the intimate audience of tete a tete theatre and so was well suited to the somewhat limited space of the School Hall. The play is one that demands an attentive and appreciative audience, for, though called a "thriller'' by the author it is not so much a thriller in the normal sense of the word as a psychological drama. It has its melodramatic features, but its appeal does not depend on on violent action. It is a carefully written study of a conflict of wills. A husband tries to cow his wife's will into the belief that she is mad, and the play traces the gradual effort of the wife's will as it tries to reject the insidious poison of her husband's suggestions. She comes perilously near real madness, but is saved in time by the intervention of a kindly old detective, Rough, who also appears in Hamilton's other Victorian thriller. The Governess. Both plays are dark and sombre, almost unerlieved by humour, andit must have needed some courage to present Gaslight on the School stage.

From the point of view of acting ability, the play was extremely successful. Harry Hyde took the part of the husband, a marvellous character study in ruthlessness and determination. and interpreted it with consumate skill. Hazel Kidder played the wife, Mrs. Man-ningham, with feeling and expression: the difficult passage at the close of the play, where her husband, bound by the police, asks her to free him and she pretends to be mad, she accomplished magnificently. The genial inspector Rough was played by Bert Brobyn, who brought out very well the few touches of lightness, the play possesses. His performance, like that of Hazel Kidder, was marred by a tendency to mumble. Supporting parts were well taken by Irene Beaufoy, as Nancy. the cheeky Cockney maid: Eva Ganderton, as Elizabeth, the only comfort that Mrs. Manningham has; Philip Oliver and Colin Morgan as policemen.

Scenery was excellent, and created a Victorian drawing room, even to the aspidistra, on the gym. floor. Thanks are due to David Buck for his lighting, to boys of the School, who were responsible for the scenery, and most particularly to the members of the cast, who all gace their service, for the benefit of the War Memorial Fund.

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