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Martin Shaw is not the only star of Gaslight's triumphant opening




GASLIGHT

New Theatre, Peterborough,

Monday, October 21, 2019

Martin Shaw and James Wilby in Gaslight. Photo: Paul Coltas (19892962)
Martin Shaw and James Wilby in Gaslight. Photo: Paul Coltas (19892962)

As regular Spalding Guardian readers will know, I’m a huge fan of and an advocate for, local theatre, but when a star such as Martin Shaw is appearing in a production so close to home, I’m not going to miss out.

And I’m glad I didn’t as Shaw and the rest of this talented cast put on an acting master class at the newly-revamped theatre.

Having already toured this show in Windsor, Birmingham, Guildford and Bath over the last month, the week’s residency in Peterborough precedes what will undoubtedly be a successful showing in the West End for this Bill Kenwright production.

Charlotte Emmerson and James Wilby in Gaslight. Photo: Paul Coltas (19894666)
Charlotte Emmerson and James Wilby in Gaslight. Photo: Paul Coltas (19894666)

Set in one room and with few costume changes, this show is all about the actors and they certainly have spades of talent to pull it off.

First performed at the Richmond Theatre in London some 81 years ago, the play is set in fog-bound London in 1880, at the home of overbearing husband Jack Manningham (James Wilby) and his anxious wife Bella (Charlotte Emmerson).

Nervous wreck Bella is worried about her mental state and her husband’s nightly disappearances from the house and starts to believe his assertions that she is going insane, even to the point she may be imagining that the gas light in the house is dimming.

Then a former police detective called Rough (Shaw) visits Bella and a fantastic plot ensues.

Charlotte Emmerson and Martin Shaw in Gaslight. Photo: Paul Coltas (19892728)
Charlotte Emmerson and Martin Shaw in Gaslight. Photo: Paul Coltas (19892728)

Shaw is superb as the affable Irishman, portraying his dogged determination and mischievous humour perfectly. He has the crowd in the palm of his hand from the start and it’s clearly he they have come to see.

But - he must share equal billing with the rest of these wonderful actors. Wilby is utterly convincing as the spiteful, manipulating yet somehow charming Jack - think a nasty Bill Nighy.

And Emmerson played her role to perfection, first as scorned, meek and confused Bella but later as the triumphant, victorious wife who lasts the course and comes out victorious.

Georgia Clarke-Day and James Wilby in Gaslight. Photo: Paul Coltas (19892956)
Georgia Clarke-Day and James Wilby in Gaslight. Photo: Paul Coltas (19892956)

And what’s a Victorian play without a saucy maid? Step forward Georgia Clarke-Day, whose dalliance with Jack is as shockingly funny as it is surprising, whereas the more senior maid, played by Mary Chater, also provides some comic relief when listening in while Jack and Rough are unknowingly together in the dressing room.

Throw in a few special effects that have the audience jumping out of their seats and you really have a triumphant show. And the good news is it’s still running tonight (Tuesday) until Saturday. Call the box office on 01733 852992.

By Jeremy Ransome

Charlotte Emmerson and Mary Charter in Gaslight. Photo: Paul Coltas. (19894784)
Charlotte Emmerson and Mary Charter in Gaslight. Photo: Paul Coltas. (19894784)

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