Review: Gaslight @ Comedy Theatre (Melbourne)

National Arts and Comedy Editor. Based in Melbourne.
Pop culture, pop music and gaming are three of Jesse’s biggest passions. Lady Gaga, Real Housewives and The Sims can almost sum him up – but he also adores a night at the cinema or a trip to the theatre.

The gas lamps dim and there are noises up above. . . But is it all in her imagination?

The term ‘gaslight’ – a verb meaning to manipulate (someone) using psychological methods into questioning their own sanity or powers of reasoning – is derived from this very play. It’s a psychological thriller which blends together intense communication between characters with stunning lighting and sound design, resulting in a production which, in the best way possible, makes it hard to blink in fear of missing something.

A particularly stormy night in the show has stuck with this reviewer for whatever reason – the rumbling of the thunder, the patter of raindrops at the window, and the realistically-flashing lightning make you feel as though you’re right there in the room with the characters. Fantastic.

The four-person cast each bring something to the table; Geraldine Hakewill’s Bella is extraordinary to watch – a truly nuanced character written in such a way that even you as the audience are considering the possibility of her insanity. Geraldine’s shaky, polite portrayal and its growth throughout the show, is something you have to see to truly appreciate.

Kate Fitzpatrick’s Elizabeth is loyal to the family and her own form of comic relief – her quips and passive aggressive commentary throughout ‘Gaslight’ are fantastic.

Toby Schmitz’s Jack perfectly encapsulates the textbook gaslighter – infuriatingly dismissive of Bella’s grievances, and simultaneously affectionate enough for her to push this aside. It’s sufficiently angering to watch him, which means his performance is a fantastic one.

Young serving girl Nancy is played by Courtney Cavallaro, and she’s a great addition to the bizarre goings-on of the Manningham household – bringing an extra layer of suspicion but also a humorous element to the work.

For most of this show, this reviewer finds himself set with a furrowed brow, observing each character carefully, and wondering what is about to happen. It’s great fun to play a bit of ‘whodunnit’ – the interval provides the perfect opportunity for my plus one and me to debrief and conspire.

Things build to a satisfying enough conclusion which has the audience sighing with relief and laughing, but the payoff doesn’t quite feel worth the roller coaster we the audience are taken on. However, this is not the fault of anyone involved in this particular production, and rather the show’s writing itself.

At the end of the day, ‘Gaslight’ is theatre in its purest form – a static set and a cast keeping audiences engaged and on the edges of their seats through building tension, a punchy and sharp script, and some phenomenal acting performances. Fans of an authentic, fun night at the theatre filled with mystery will enjoy ‘Gaslight’ a lot.


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