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An interesting concept, but not my type of play.  However, that said, there were good performances and technical elements.

The set, a typically Victorian period room, worked extremely well, the gaslights of the title were positioned in exactly the right places, adding atmosphere and tension to the piece.

The set was very well dressed, so many pictures, ornaments etc, that really gave the confined, closed in feel of rooms as depicted in that era.  The half-light and increased light given off by the gaslights accentuated the rather stuffy feel of the room.

James Trapp played Jack Manningham with a cruel and chilling edge.  His costume and demeanour were both elegant and sophisticated whilst hiding his evil intent toward his wife.  James got good contrasts between the suave and slightly risqué man and his rather nasty alter ego.  His arrest happened so quickly it was a bit of a blur, but in the scene that followed with his wife, I felt his eyes weren’t mirroring what was going on in his soul, which was the only place where it didn’t ring true.

Joanne Croft got so much emotion into the part of Bella Manningham, the wife that Jack was trying to drive insane.  She started off looking and sounding so normal, then gradually degenerating into the almost insane.  Very well done overall.  However, I would have liked a little more light and shade, as the psychotic rather whiney voice carried on for most of the time, and just needed some light and shade to make it more convincing.  Bella’s dress was lovely, epitomised the feel of the era, and the blue made her stand out amongst the other more subdued colours.

I liked Alistair Brown’s slightly under-played and whimsical ex-policeman Rough – he always gets so much underlying characterisation into his roles, that give them that entirely believable edge, whilst also making you question his motives.  I must admit that at one stage I was wondering if indeed he was acting with Jack to add more confusion to Bella’s mind, but was very glad when he was proved to be 100% on her side.  Again, a very debonair feel to Alistair’s costume that suited him.

Elizabeth was played well by Barbara Morton, she showed the very human understanding side of the servant, with her wish to help Bella, and an increasing repulsion to Jack’s moods.  A really nice interpretation.

Fiona Smout, in her first role with the Rep, gave us a nicely coquettish maid Nancy, trying to undermine Bella, flirting outrageously with Jack, and giving in very quickly to his advances.  Some nice touches in Fiona’s portrayal.

Both costumes for the serving staff were good and reflected the times.

Finally we had two policemen, who had nothing to do but arrest Jack – and look very stern – which they did well.  Unfortunately two very different costumes, which did not ring true.

So, not entirely one of the Rep’s best, but that was more down to the play than anything else, it did not give me the intensity I was expecting, although on the whole the characters were good.

I must comment on the bows –I am not a fan of the traditional walk down/line up, there are so many things that can be done, and I always feel it breaks the feel of a production somehow, but that’s just a personal view!

Dunstable Rep


review date: 15th March 2016

Little Theatre, Dunstable

Director:  Alan Clarke  


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