Gaslight Set to Thrill
Set in 19th century London, at the home of Jack Manningham and his wife Bella, this classic gothic thriller tells a story of murder, mental abuse and unwavering spirit.
At the opening of the drama Bella, played by Kate-Michelle Simms, is clearly on edge, and the stern reproaches from her overbearing husband Jack played by Martin Crew, makes matters worse.
As the drama unfolds, it becomes clear that Jack is intent on convincing Bella that she is going insane, even to the point of assuring her she is "imagining" that the gas light in the house is dimming.
Both Ms. Simms and Mr. Crew are familiar faces to local Blue Mountains audiences.
While Bella Manningham marks Ms. Simms first starring role, she is a regular performer with the Blue Mountains Musical Society, previously appearing in The Phantom of the Opera, Cats, and Spamalot.
Mr. Crew also starred in the Blue Mountain’s Musical Society’s production of Spamalot as Sir Bedevere and Boxboard Theatre’s production of Forget Smart as Agent 13/Shtarkas..
When both actors sat down to discuss Gaslight, they both agreed that it is a show that is very different to many of their previous endeavours.
Gaslight is a classic gothic thriller written by British dramatist Patrick Hamilton. How would you describe the play in your own words.
Crew: I would describe Gaslight as a psychological thriller. It is an exploration into the human psyche; our frailties; our strengths; our ability to survive though adversity and withstand extreme hardship; as well as our potential for evil.
Simms: I would agree with Martin. It is definitely a dark play that shows violence is not always physical. When the play was first released it gave rise to the term ‘gaslighting’ as a form of psychological abuse where a victim is given false information with the intent of making them doubt their memory and mind. It really shows the huge impact that words can have on a person. At the same time however, it is also a play that shows the resilience of the human spirit and our ability to overcome and conquer great hardship.
It sounds like the dark themes of this production would bring with it a lot of challenges. Have either of you found that to be the case?
Simms: Yes, definitely. There is absolutely no question that Bella Manningham has been the most challenging, and emotionally demanding role that I have ever played. Even though I know that the words Martin speaks to me when he is playing Jack, are fictional, it is still very difficult to hear. I am very aware that the type of abuse that Bella suffers is something that still happens to people within relationships today. With that in mind, I feel a responsibility to portray Bella’s struggle as truthfully as possible. Bella is a young woman who has been beaten down by her husband’s words so much, that she is now a woman filled with fear who doubts her own sanity. Amidst all this however, there are also moments in the play where it is very clear that Bella still does love her husband, and holds onto hope that he will change his ways. Trying to put myself in those shoes and portray that cycle of violence has definitely been a challenge.
That does sound like a challenge. What about you Martin? Has it been difficult putting yourself in the shoes of Jack Manningham? From the sounds of it, he is not a nice guy.
Crew: You’re right. He’s not a nice guy and it took me a while to understand that he really has no redeeming quality. I don’t usually get cast as a villain and it has been great fun delving into the depths of Jack’s psyche to see what evil lurks there and how I can best portray that. He is genuinely horrible towards all those around him whether he makes it patently obvious or veils it. So coming to terms with that and accepting that it's okay just to let go of common decency and embrace the evil was a big step. It is great fun though once you do let go of Jack's morality, and seeing the cast and production team cringe and look away because of something I've done is lots of fun; it means I must be doing something right.
Simms: Yes! And he definitely does make us cringe!
With such challenging characters and dark themes, it sounds like Gaslight promises to be quite a compelling production. In your own words, why do you think Blue Mountains residents should come and see this show?
Crew: People should come and see it to enjoy a fascinating story, first and foremost. Patrick Hamilton has created such an interesting, multi-layered story that people will find themselves thinking about it for a long time I believe. It is truly thought-provoking, and though people may find it hard to face at times I think they can learn a lot from it.
Simms: It is definitely a play that is sure to leave the audience thinking long after they leave the theatre. It is a raw and emotional look into the darkness and light that exists within the human soul and features some excellent performances from local actors. It really is a show not to be missed.
Crew: There’s not really much else to say, other than that we hope everyone enjoys the show and finds something worthwhile within the story that will make them think just a little bit more in their day to day lives.
Gaslight will be playing at the Richmond School of Arts from 13 to 27 May. To book tickets visit richmondplayers.com.au or call 8006 6997 for more information.
13 to 27 May 2017
Richmond School of Arts, 26 West Market St, Richmond
- To book tickets visit richmondplayers.com.au or call 8006 6997 for more information.
This article archived 21 Jun 2017
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