July 2011. Directed by Bridgette Whittaker.
Reviewed by Ann Cox, Leighton Buzzard Observer
ANDREW Meadows must be the most hated man in Leighton this week. The am-dram actor turned in such a powerful performance as a bullying, misogynistic and sadistic husband in a Victorian pot-boiler staged by the town’s drama group that I fear for his family.
Gaslight, which ran for three nights at Leighton Buzzard Theatre, was an engrossing melodrama that lived up to its genre. Meadows played Jack Manningham, one of the coldest and most brutal men to tread the boards. With an icy glower and a cutting remark he reduced his timid and rather insipid wife, Bella, to a jibbering wreck.
Leighton Buzzard Drama Group has been on a bit of a roll recently and they deserve greater support from the town’s theatre fans for their ambitious productions.
Patrick Hamilton’s period thriller was a pacy drama set in the drawing room of a London house. Bella feared she was going insane largely due to accusations from her brutish husband.
But secrets were revealed as the play progressed that turned a kitchen sink drama into a dark and sinister thriller complete with an obsessed police inspector determined to crack the crime of his career.
Kim Aguilar gave in a convincing turn as the pathetic Bella but, having had the vapours and outbreaks of hysteria every few seconds, there were moments in Gaslight when I sided with Jack’s threats to have his wife committed. Could there be a more hysterical and foolish woman?
Stuart Rourke was very much a Victorian Columbo – a plodding copper, dressed in tweed, who wasn’t as daft as he looked (or sounded) but there were times when the actor’s dry performance needed a lift.
There were subtle supporting roles from Mary Blease, Carl Russell and Bob Kempster while Emma Stone’s cheeky performance as the saucy maid, Nancy, may have been clichéd but it was thoroughly entertaining.
Director Bridgette Whittaker used her experience to the full to create a gripping yarn from start to finish.