Thursday, May 16, 2024




Written by Patrick Hamilton and adapted by Johnna Wright and Patty Jameison. Directed by Lee Lewis. Set and costume design Renee Mulder. Lighting design Paul Jackson. Original music and sound design Paul Charlier. Casting director Lauren Wiley. Technical Direction Daniel Maddison and David Worthy Voice and dialect coach Gabrielle Rogers. Movement and intimacy Nigel Poulton. Presented by Rodney Rigby, Queensland Theatre, Marriner Group and TEG. General management New Theatricals. Execurtive producer Ben Finn. Canberra Theatre Centre. Canberra Theatre. May 16-19 2024. Bookings: 6275 2700 or

Reviewed by Peter Wilkins


Geraldine Hakewill as Bella and Toby Schmitz as Jack
in Patrick Hamilton's GASLIGHT

 A sinister tension hangs in the air as the curtain rises on Renee Mulder’s lavish design of a London residence in the 1880s. Jack Manningham (Toby Schmitz) is concerned that his wife Bella (Geraldine Hakewill) is showing signs of delusion.  Unexplained events are shrouded in mystery.  A portrait of the previous owner, Alice Barlow is removed from the wall and hidden. Noises from the attic above torment the bewildered Bella. The gaslight inexplicably dims. Housekeeper Elizabeth (Kate Fitzpatrick) and maid Nancy (Courtney Cavallaro) are falsely accused of stealing Bella’s mother’s pearl necklace. Bella is terrified when husband Jack leaves her alone at night. Is Bella losing her mind? Or is she the victim, tormented by deliberate deception for some ominous purpose?

Geraldine Hakewill, Kate Fitzpatrick as Elizabeth, and Toby Schmitz 

Patrick Hamilton’s 1938 psychological thriller Gaslight is a timely lesson in the fearful practice of coercion. Johnna Wright and Pattie Jamieson’s adaptation of Hamilton’s play focuses on the insidious nature of suggestive manipulation, casting Bella into a world of self-doubt in which she is forced to question her sanity. Director Lee Lewis charts the suspense with insightful command of the thriller genre. She is assisted by Paul Charlier’s original music and sound design, varying the instrumentation to suggest the repetitive torment to the confused brain or the sudden shock of the storm. The atmosphere is riveting, heart-stopping in its tension and intriguing in its depiction of coercive control.  

Lewis directs an outstanding cast in this gripping revival of the play that gave us the term gaslighting. Schmitz’s Manningham oozes sincerity in his concern for Bella’s welfare while insinuating unsettling accusation. Hakewill gives a magnificent performance as Bella, struggling on the precipice of insanity, at times collapsing in despair until a chance twist in events reveals her innate strength. Schmitz and Hakewill are strongly supported by Fitzpatrick’s perfect depiction of the austere Victorian housemaid Elizabeth, dressed in black and echoing the Gothic spirit of the loyal servant harbouring a private trauma. Cavallaro capitalizes on the feisty and opportunistic character of the chambermaid Nancy as she seeks the opportunity to lift her above the circumstances of her class.

Toby Schmitz as Jack Manningham

At a time when domestic violence and coercion are high on the political agenda it is imperative that Hamilton’s 1938 thriller should provide opportunity and hope for a society concerned with the issue of gaslighting. It is significant that Bella’s chance discovery of evidence of deception at the end of the first act should give rise to her inner strength as a catalyst for empowerment. The tables turn in a triumph of good over evil. However, Hamilton’s Gaslight, intelligently adapted by Wright and Jamieson is not a Victorian melodrama. Though true to the era in style and design, this touring production shines a light on a social issue that dare not be ignored. Lee Lewis’s staging of Patrick Hamilton’s Gaslight is a highly polished and professional production that will have you sitting on the edge of your seat, your heart thumping and your mind whirling. This is a work not to be missed, not only because it is so highly entertaining in the Gothic and film noir tradition, but because it casts a contemporary light upon a society grappling with the impact of coercion and the role that society and government can play to provide support and empowerment to those affected by all forms of psychological abuse.

Gaslight is playing for a limited season only at the Canberra Theatre. Be sure to catch this revitalized revival before the curtain falls on this excellent production.