The term gaslighting, derived from this 1938 play by dramatist Patrick Hamilton, is a form of psychological abuse in which the victim is gradually manipulated into doubting his or her own reality.
This is exactly what Jack Manningham is doing to wife Bella in the Victorian play, set in the London home of the well-off couple in the latter part of the 19th century.
As soon as the lights go down and the eerie music starts, the stage is set for Hamilton’s intriguing and clever story of madness and murder.
Natalie Crompton is impressive as on-the-edge Bella, putting in a faultless performance as the wife who just wants to be treated with kindness and taken out for a night at the theatre.
Martin Pearce also puts in a strong performance as the cocksure man of thehouse, bragging about how he could have been an actor and quoting from Shakespeare’s great play of murder and madness, Hamlet, before shamelessly manipulating his dependent wife into thinking she is losing her mind.
Help arrives in the form of Ex-Detective Rough, played with authority by Clive McCoy apart from a few fluffed lines on opening night, who knows a thing or two about Jack’s true character.
The action takes place in one room, throughout the course of a day, and Ruth Morley also puts in a good performance as flirty housekeeper Nancy with Christine Brooks and Oliver Bowler taking on smaller parts.
Rooting for Bella, as the plot unfolds, it reaches its peak in this timeless, eerie play which also features a set and costumes fitting for the period, as well as the all-important lighting effects.