REVIEW: Victorian melodrama brings an evening of tension in Gaslight at Royal & Derngate

Tara Fitzgerald in Gaslight
Tara Fitzgerald in Gaslight

The psychological wearing down of a woman by her husband makes uncomfortable watching in the latest of the Made In Northampton productions at Royal & Derngate, Gaslight.

The play, which stars Tara Fitzgerald as the fragile and vulnerable Bella Manningham, follows a husband’s callous plans to convince his wife that she is going mad.

A Victorian melodrama, Gaslight explores the ways that a personality can be dismantled. As Jack Manningham plays tricks on his wife, humiliates her and toys with her emotions, she is left with nothing but doubts, she is frightened, yet still eager to please her abuser.

Tara Fitzgerald is convincing as she wavers from desperate efforts to make things right to completely losing it as she is unable to quite catch hold of any certainties or reality.

Jonathan Firth as Jack Manningham gets that combination of plausible charm and cruelty that allows his character to get away with his scheme for so long.

And Paul Hunter is comical as Rough, whose charming vanity and determination bring a shot of humour and a welcome break from the tension.

Imaginative use of projections and lighting added to the atmosphere in a play which, while set in the past, explores an issue that is every bit as relevant in the modern day.

Gaslight is at Royal & Derngate in Northampton until Saturday, November 7.