Gaslight by Patrick Hamilton

I discovered in the course of doing some light research into this play, that its title gave rise to the description of a psychological phenomena, gaslighting. Gaslighting is outlined as the systematic manipulation of one person by another. This form of mental assault distorts the victims perception of reality. It is a form of abuse that over time can lead to mental health issues and even suicide.

This short review is based on a viewing of the penultimate performance, the matinee on Saturday 7th November 2015.

Royal and Derngate Theatre entrance

Royal and Derngate Theatre entrance

The Royal and Derngate theatre is a strange mixture, the old juxtaposed with the new. The complex not only features two theatres but also a cinema and spaces for more family orientated workshops.

The Royal is a 130 year old Victorian theatre that can accommodate up to 400+ guests. When you walk into the auditorium you notice the close intimacy of this theatre. The stalls open out in a fan before the stage while the upper galleries circle overhead. The first thing that catches your eye is the elaborately painted safety curtain, Sipario Dipinto as it’s also called. Painted by local artist Henry Bird, it depicts cherubim alongside people connected with the theatre, most notably Errol Flynn. Currently the Royal are running a restoration appeal to raise £30,000 to complete the preservation of this beautiful part of the theatre.

Safety Curtain at the Royal Derngate Theatre

Safety Curtain at the Royal Derngate Theatre

This Made in Northampton production of the 1938 play Gaslight by British writer Patrick Hamilton, was directed by Lucy Bailey with a homely set designed by William Dudley. The performance occurs entirely in a Victorian living room, which in this production made use of a transparent backdrop that was used to good effect. The only thing that didn’t seem to work as good as intended was the use of projections. They did little to enhance the plot and seemed to be a little O.T.T. in their execution. The lighting by Chris Davey however added to the atmosphere of the play. There was a warm glow from the fire and the gaslights as part of the set became almost another character. The light was used effectively to show the shifting of Bella’s psychological state. This medium, used in conjunction with Nell Catchpole’s minimalist soundtrack only added to the tension on stage.

gaslight cast

There was no fault to be found in the casting. Most notable were familiar names, Jonathan Firth and Tara Fitzgerald, both who have had successful television careers as well as on stage. Fitzgerald played the persecuted wife who questioned her own sanity. She looked tortured and tiptoed around the aggressive husband (Firth) who flew into uncontrollable rages. He played the part like Janus, one face was jovial and all toothy smiles and the second showed a more sinister, domineering side. Firth’s body language on stage was that of arms continuously folded as he struggled to contain his anger. Somehow it made the viewer question who the ‘real’ mad character was?

Photo by Donald Cooper

Photo by Donald Cooper

A welcome relief from the angst portrayed by the Victorian couple, Firth and Fitzgerald was Paul Hunter’s Rough. He portrayed a retried detective who had a penchant for the odd dram of whisky or three. His comedy was much needed in a play with such a dark plot. Without his presence the audience would have been lost in Fitzgerald’s madness.

Though the play was billed as a thriller it had all the hallmarks of a detective drama too. It was a thoroughly entertaining way to spend a Saturday afternoon.

© Christine Lucas 2015

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‘Tyger, tyger burning bright’.

The title of this blog is a line from a William Blake poem, The Tyger. It came into my mind when David and I last visited Chester Zoo‘s Islands. This time, we did go in search of tigers, Sumatran Tigers in fact. It has been a joy to follow each stage of Islands as they open to the public. After visiting Panay, Sumba and Papua in phase one, it was then the turn of Monsoon Forest a few months later, and now Sumatra is finally open with the introduction of the tigers to their new enclosure.

Sumatra at Chester Zoo Islands

Sumatra at Chester Zoo Islands

It was my birthday on Friday, 30th October, so David and I ventured forth to Chester Zoo in the drizzle. However once we arrived at the zoo, the sun started to fracture the grey clouds. As we ventured towards Islands and reclined on the Lazy Boat Ride (which I love!), the sun’s rays shone, unseasonally warm upon us.

The downside to the tiger enclosure however, was that the glass windows that feature in the outside part of their home, was full of frost and condensation. Perhaps it will be a forthcoming issue for the zoo in winter months? Fellow guests commented about this to the keepers, though I don’t know of how they can combat it. We have been to other zoos that have also had condensation on the windows. I think this is a universal problem for most zoos. It did make for poor viewing of the tigers who were sat on a rock right opposite the frosted window!

However, it was not just the tiger enclosure that suffered from condensation, the new orang-utan enclosure (yet to be occupied,) also had issues with this.

We ventured around Islands twice in the hope that the condensation would lessen as the day warmed up, but alas it didn’t.

The army of volunteers that populate Islands needs a mention, they offer a friendly, helpful and informative service and they make the Islands experience even more fulfilling.

We visited Monsoon Forest twice on our tour of Islands, the Sunda Gharial is an enclosure that is always busy, (I’ve still not got a good picture of them). There are more free flying birds introduced into the tropical forest and looking over the canopy of plants really gave the impression of being in a forest.

Monsoon Forest

Monsoon Forest

Part of Monsoon Forest is the Tripa Forest Research Station. I’ve commented on this before but I really love the authentic feel to the place.

Tripa Forest Research Station

Tripa Forest Research Station

During our visit to Chester Zoo we purchased a joint yearly membership, at £135. This means unlimited visits and special days when family and friends can come along with members and pay half price admission. Then there is the 10% discount in shops at the zoo and one visit a year to a number of zoos in the scheme, including Twycross Zoo and Highland Wildlife Park! I am so happy we have the membership again. We can visit Islands whenever we have a free weekend. It will be nice to see Islands evolve throughout the seasons. 😀

I’ll end by sharing the William Blake poem.

Tyger! Tyger! burning bright
In the forests of the night,
What immortal hand or eye
Could frame thy fearful symmetry?

In what distant deeps or skies
Burnt the fire of thine eyes?
On what wings dare he aspire?
What the hand dare sieze the fire?

And what shoulder, & what art.
Could twist the sinews of thy heart?
And when thy heart began to beat,
What dread hand? & what dread feet?

What the hammer? what the chain?
In what furnace was thy brain?
What the anvil? what dread grasp
Dare its deadly terrors clasp?

When the stars threw down their spears,
And watered heaven with their tears,
Did he smile his work to see?
Did he who made the Lamb make thee?

Tyger! Tyger! burning bright
In the forests of the night,
What immortal hand or eye
Dare frame thy fearful symmetry?