The fear of a descent into madness has long been a major theme in drama, from Shakespeare’s King Lear to the modern storyline of Helen Titchener in The Archers. In the murky fog-bound London of 1890, Bella Manningham finds herself in a similar plight. There are sounds from a supposedly empty floor above and as the gaslight flickers and fades it heightens the dread lurking in the household. Is Jack Manningham the considerate and charming husband he appears to be, or has he sinister intentions? Is Bella really losing her mind? The sudden arrival of a retired policeman, Inspector Rough, puts in motion the discovery of dark secrets.
Bella Manningham is played by Helen Grime, a drama lecturer at the University of Winchester. She comments: “Gaslight presents a wonderful challenge to portray both the strength and vulnerability of Bella; often moment to moment”.
Director Michael Goron, a fellow lecturer, found the psychological examination of the play intriguing. He explained: “The confessional aspects of this play, when a protagonist is helped to recognise hidden truths by talking to a benign listener, has more in common with an analyst’s couch than the improbable coincidences of Victorian melodrama.”
Gaslight runs at the Chesil Theatre from 1st to 8th April nightly at 7.45pm with a matinee on the final Saturday. Tickets at £11 and £13 are available from www.chesiltheatre.org.uk, by calling 0333 666 3366 or by post from Chesil Theatre, Chesil Street, Winchester SO23 0HU.