An electric performance of Gaslight

GASLIGHT, an intriguing, suspenseful play by the little known author Patrick Hamilton, was the choice of Woodford Operatic and Dramatic Society at the Kenneth More Theatre last week. This taut 1930s drama – turned by Hollywood into something less hard-edg

GASLIGHT, an intriguing, suspenseful play by the little known author Patrick Hamilton, was the choice of Woodford Operatic and Dramatic Society at the Kenneth More Theatre last week.

This taut 1930s drama - turned by Hollywood into something less hard-edged and starring the luminous Ingrid Bergman - still has the power to grip and engage and the WOADS production was commendable.

The plot: London housewife Bella Manningham thinks she is going mad - there are the footsteps on the top floor of her house, the picture that keeps being removed from the wall, and the missing grocery bills.

Her husband, Jack, is losing patience and it soon becomes clear that he has plans to put her in an asylum.

Enter former detective Rough, with the background to what is really going on in Bella's home. She is not going mad, but has started to tumble to a nefarious plot to find the lost rubies of an elderly woman murdered in the house 20 years before.

Director Mary Lowe played up the menace and kept the pace sharp, with the result that the audience could not have looked away had they wanted to (which they didn't).

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Jim Noon was terrifically sinister as Manningham; this was a confident, masterful performance that gradually revealed the evil beneath the conservative exterior and held the audience rapt.

And Jay Berry did well as Bella, a walking bundle of nerves at the outset who blossoms as she learns the meaning behind the strange goings-on.

Both these performances were well fleshed out, as was Rough, played with rough northern charm and great realism by Dave Bennett. He did show a tendency to skip ahead with his lines, then come back to bits he had missed, but mostly this just added to the verisimilitude - most people can't talk without hesitation, deviation and repetition (think Just a Minute on Radio 4).

Susan Persky gave a strong performance as housekeeper Elizabeth and Claire Perrin was generally good as Nancy, the maid, although I found the attraction between her and Manningham hard to credit (not a lot of sexual tension was evident here) and at times her performance seemed a trifle stilted.

Well dressed (by Georgina Welford) and lit (thanks again to Rob Mitchell-Gears), this piece was sinister, stylish - and ultimately most successful.

- SUE LEEMAN

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