"Gas Light" by Patrick Hamilton
Name: "Gas Light" by Patrick Hamilton
Date: October 12, 2017 - October 14, 2017
In the tradition of heavyweight thrillers from Hitchcock, Christie and Priestley, "Gas Light" is a genre-defining, sensationally suspenseful, all-round elegant masterpiece. This superb mystery-thriller will have you on the edge of your seat. The play is set in fog-bound London in 1880 at the upper middle class home of Jack Manningham and his wife Bella. It is late afternoon, a time which Hamilton notes as being the time "before the feeble dawn of gaslight and tea". At the opening of the drama Bella is clearly on edge, and the stern reproaches from her overbearing husband (who flirts with the servants) makes matters worse. What most perturbs Bella is Jack's unexplained disappearances from the house: he will not tell her where he is going, and this increases her anxiety. As the drama unfolds, it becomes clear that Jack is intent on convincing Bella that she is going insane, even to the point of assuring her she is "imagining" the gas light in the house is dimming. The appearance of a police detective called Rough soon leads Bella to realise that Jack is responsible for her torment. Rough explains that the apartment above was once occupied by one Alice Barlow, a wealthy woman who was murdered for her jewels but that the murderer never uncovered them. In fact, Jack goes to the flat each night to search for the jewels, and lighting the gaslights in it causes the lights to dim in the rest of the building. His footsteps in what is supposed to be an empty apartment are used to make Bella believe that she is hearing things. Rough convinces Bella to assist him in exposing Jack as the murderer, which she does, but not before she takes revenge on Jack by pretending to help him escape. At the last minute she reminds him that, having gone insane, she is not accountable for her actions. The play closes with Jack Manningham being led away by the police.