“Gaslight”, Chelmsford Theatre Workshop – The Old Court Theatre, Chelmsford. 10/12/16
Colin Smith and Sarah Bell. Photo: Barry Taylor
With the British peoples, current love of period dramas such as Downton Abbey and Poldark, I was intrigued to see this play set in the Victorian Period which has some really deep and dark undertones.
It was quite a slow start – but I suspect this is mostly down to setting up the characters before the story started to weave its web. If you like intrigue and darkness then this is a play you will love.
The many sides of Bella were shown with great care by Sarah Bell, from her mad ramblings to her deepest fears. A complex character which at times has to show great weakness and sadness as well as some inner strength. By contrast, Colin Smith as her husband Jack was delightfully malevolent and gave a deep darkness which I relished. He was very true to the character of an upright and formal Victorian gentleman but with the added flaw of enjoying the mental torture of his wife. However, for me, the play really started to climax on the arrival of Andy Perrin as Ex-Inspector Rough, although a little unsure of his dialogue in places, it didn’t diminish his characterisation and the ease of his performance on stage made him very watchable and a very likeable hero.
With only five characters in the story, it is vital that even the smaller characters give strong performances and both Rachel Curren as Elizabeth the Housekeeper and Corinne Woodgate as Nancy the Maid, did just that. In fact, Corinne seemed to particularly relish her character in Act Two!!!
The set had great attention to detail and worked so well to convey the period and aid the action. I did, however, find with the lighting when the gas lights dimmed it was a bit too dark to see any action on stage – some artistic licence here would have helped maintain the action and allow us to see the faces of the actors – a shame as the performers deserved to be seen at all times.
But these are little quibbles in what was all around, a strong and engaging play under the very able direction of Christine Davidson.
If you are looking for a change from ‘Strictly’ sequins and pantomime giggles, I strongly recommend this great period drama with a darker side and gritty undertone. This suspense thriller is one you will not regret going to see.
You can catch ‘Gaslight’ again next week from 15th – 17th December at the Old Court Theatre, Chelmsford and tickets are available from 01245 606505, Nightly at 7:45pm, Saturday Matinee 2:30pm.