November 2008

by Patrick Hamilton

Directed by
Karen Ashton
and Jan Ford

Beautifully paced thriller
Braintree & Witham Times

Masterly portrayal of
the criminal mind

Michael Gray

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Gaslight is a Victorian thriller set in late 19th century London during a foggy winter.

Jack Manningham is slowly and deliberately driving his wife, Bella, insane.  Whilst he goes out on the town each evening, she cowers alone in her room, lit by a shadowy gaslight and listening to the mysterious footsteps overhead.  He has almost succeeded when help arrives in the form of an ex-detective, Rough, who believes Manningham to be a thief and murderer.  Aided by Bella, Rough proves Manningham's true identity and finally Bella achieves a few moments of sweet revenge for the suffering inflicted on her.

Jack Manningham and his wife Bella enjoy tea with muffins.  He tells her he will take her to the theatre to see her favourite actor.

Manningham suddenly accuses Bella of hiding a picture deliberately.  He suggests that she is going mad like her mother.  They are no longer going to the theatre.

When Manningham goes out for the evening,
the housekeeper, Elizabeth introduces a visitor, Rough who has come to see Bella.

Over a cup of tea, Rough tells Bella that he is a private detective looking for the murderer of an old lady, Alice Barlow, many years before. He explains that this man is still searching for her jewellery, that this house used to be the old lady's and that he suspects the murderer to be none other than her husband.

Elizabeth tells Bella that she must be strong and do as Rough asks.  She retires to her bedroom before Manningham returns.

Manningham returns to find Elizabeth clearing the tea things.  He tells her that his wife is going mad and that she should be loyal to him.

When Manningham again leaves the house, Rough sets to work finding evidence against him.  He breaks into the locked drawer in Manningham's desk.

Inside, Rough finds all the items that Manningham has accused Bella of losing, including a brooch that contains the old lady's missing collection of rubies that Manningham has been searching for over the years.

Later, when Manningham returns, Rough and Bella hide.  Nancy, the maid also returns from an evening out and taunts Manningham about how he really wants her rather than his wife.  He sends Nancy to fetch Bella from her room.

Manningham starts to interrogate Bella about why the desk has been broken into.  He wants to know what she has been up to and threatens her with imprisonment.  As she begins to break down, Rough enters.

Rough presents to Manningham the evidence that he has obtained.  He is convinced that Manningham is Alice Barlow's murderer and tells him there is no escape and that he will hang for the crime.

Rough summons two policemen who have quietly entered the house.  They arrest Manningham and, after Bella has had a private moment to tell her husband what she thinks of him, he is taken away.



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