Gaslight ~ Malvern Theatres

Gaslight runs at Malvern Theatres until Saturday 4th March 2017 – book now at: http://www.malvern-theatres.co.uk

Star rating: ****

Gaslight by Patrick Hamilton is no ordinary whodunit, it’s a tense thriller set in 1871 and this particular incarnation boasts a glorious set which offers a ‘Great Expectations’ air of faded decadence. The Manningham’s spectacular drawing room offers a static scene for the length of the play, however from the outset it became obvious that there were hidden tricks in there. All of which added to the dramatic tension and eerie ambience of the piece.

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Kara Tointon as Bella Manningham

Kara Tointon plays Bella Manningham, it is evident from the opening scene that she is a troubled, anxious soul who dotes on her husband, Jack (Rupert Young). Tointon portrays her as nervous and edgy and is able to demonstrate much of this through her body language. Despite her having recently played Betsey in The Halcyon and my prior knowledge of her work, I was able to detach myself from the characters I was previously familiar with as she embraced this new challenge and role extremely ably. I felt that the costume, make-up and Tointon’s demeanour gave Bella the appearance of a young Miss Haversham. An unsurprising link to make given that she spends much of her time cooped up in the house that is driving her mad with the sounds from above stairs, the fading gaslights and the items that go missing which she has responsibility for.

Jack is a controlling husband whom it is easy to take a dislike to from the beginning, he dangles carrots, such as a trip to the theatre and then withdraws them upon declaring that his wife has done wrong again. He is feeding her medicine and encouraging her to believe that she is going mad, like her mother before her. Undermining his wife in front of the servants is also a favourite pastime of his.  Young is a convincing villain and his height adds stature to the imposing character that he is playing. Jack’s disappearance to do as he pleases while his wife remains ‘imprisoned’ signals the arrival of an unexpected visitor. Rough (Keith Allen) is a retired Detective who has picked up a case that he had worked on twenty years ago and brings the grave news that the house was the scene of a gruesome murder, the murderer is still at large and Bella’s married life may not be what it seems. Allen plays Rough with well timed wit, he has the ability to lighten the tone even though the subject matter is intensely serious. His timing is impeccable, there’s an added quirkiness too which moves the action along at a smooth pace.

There are no real ‘jump out of your seat’ thrills in this piece, but it’s an engaging evening at the theatre and although I sought out twists that weren’t present, the overall outcome didn’t disappoint. The cast are a strong unit with notable chemistry and each of the leads gave outstanding performances. Hamilton’s play has stood the test of time and can still be enjoyed in a very different era, it’s highly recommended by Break A Leg.

 

 

 

Spotlight On… Star Of Gaslight, Kara Tointon

Gaslight arrives at Malvern Theatres on Monday 27 February and runs until Saturday 4 March 2017 before continuing its UK tour. To book tickets to see the show in Malvern, follow this link: Malvern Theatres Box Office

Actress, Kara Tointon has recently been seen on-screen in the new ITV drama, The Halcyon. She had previously been known to audiences her roles in Mr Selfridge, The Sound Of Music Live, winning Strictly Come Dancing and of course her appearance in EastEnders. Fans of the star will be delighted to know that she is treading the boards in a thriller by Patrick Hamilton, Gaslight. Kara took time out of her busy schedule to chat with Break A Leg:

Thanks for talking to Break A Leg, Kara, first of all tell me about Gaslight and your character.

Gaslight is a play written by Patrick Hamilton written in 1938 and I play Bella Manningham who has been married for seven years. She is incredibly optimistic and completely obsessed and in love with her husband, he can do no wrong in her eyes. However her husband is convincing her that she is going mad. I’m in it with Keith Allen and Rupert Young and it’s been really interesting as a piece to rehearse, it’s not your normal whodunit but it’s unravelled itself into a completely different story to what I had thought it would be. It’s different from anything that I have done before, lots of lines to learn and textually rich.

How does working on stage and on screen differ? What are the challenges?

It’s interesting because when it comes to learning scripts for television it’s short term learning and you don’t always get a lot of time to rehearse and it’s a different process whereas on stage you do have a lot to learn but you do have a lovely rehearsal period where you worry that the lines aren’t going to ‘go in’, but slowly and surely they do. Before you know it you’re in front of an audience and you’ve got through it and conquered your fear.

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Kara Tointon and Rupert Young in Gaslight

Do you suffer from stage fright or nerves at all?

I think before the first night I always have nerves but you have to use them, I like having nerves and I think it would be a bit worrying if you didn’t have any nerves. Slowly they disperse over the duration of the run. I do get nervous but in a good way.

Is there a particular play that you want to do or a part that you would really like to play?

I used to think about roles that I would love to do but in reality in acting it depends on the auditions that come up at the time and it’s best to take each job as it comes. Just playing strong female roles is quite special, for instance this part in Gaslight is a strong female although she is having a tough time.

The Halcyon has just finished on ITV, what were your highlights of playing Betsey in the show?

It was a fantastic project to be a part of, especially with it being set in 1939. Funnily enough my Great Auntie, my Dad’s Aunt was a bit of a cheeky character and when she was younger she had this really infectious cackle of a laugh, so when I was thinking about this character I thought about her a lot. While I was filming I saw a photo of her and she had her hair in exactly the same way as they did my hair for Betsey and she also sang at the pubs. It was such a lovely time in history to do because although it’s before my time it’s still very close to my heart because there were family members who were around at the time. She was such fun to play because she didn’t care what people thought of her.

We’ve been treated to your lovely singing voice in The Halcyon and previously in the live version of The Sound Of Music, would you like to pursue a musical theatre career in the future?

I love singing and I have had a lot of singing lessons while growing up so it’s always been a hobby that I have enjoyed. I’ve got no plans to make it into something but if a job comes up where singing is necessary I would go for those parts. I don’t see myself as a singer, I see myself as an actress who can sing, I’ve noticed that my voice has strengthened over the years because I have a good singing teacher who gives me great vocal exercises. It’s amazing what you can do with the right exercises and techniques. I worked with Maria Friedman not long ago and she taught me that you don’t have to have the best singing voice, as long as you enjoy what you’re singing, that was a good lesson to learn.

Finally, what would you say to encourage people to come along and see Gaslight?

It’s a little bit different, it’s a thriller and melodrama, not really a whodunit and we’ve tried to do it in a new and fresh way. As this was written in 1938 it catered for the audience of its time, so what we’ve tried to achieve is to keep it fresh. If you’re up for a thrill, come along and see what you think, it’s a good play.

Thank you so much to Kara for an insightful interview, it was a pleasure chatting to this talented and very lovely lady and Break A Leg can’t wait to review the production next week.

 

 

 

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