Set to be one of the most talked about performances of 2024, Gaslight, a modern adaptation of the 1940’s suspenseful thriller by Patrick Hamilton and starring Geraldine Hakewill and Toby Schmitz, is set to premiere in Brisbane as part of the 2024 Queensland Theatre season.
The highly-anticipated play, set in 1901 London, will be directed by Queensland Theatre’s Artistic Director Lee Lewis, and produced by Rodney Rigby for Newtheatricals (Come From Away, Jersey Boys, Good Night, Oscar starring Tony Award winner Sean Hayes) and Queensland Theatre. It has been adapted by respected Canadian writers and performers Patty Jamieson and Johnna Wright and world premiered at the internationally renowned Shaw Festival in Canada in 2022.
Bella Manningham is a young wife who seemingly has it all – a nice home and a comfortable upper-middle class life. Her housekeepers, Elizabeth and Nancy, attend to her and help run the household. Her husband, Jack, appears attentive and loving. So why is Bella on edge? As we learn more about the Manningham household, it becomes clear that something is amiss.
Despite his doting appearance, Jack is hiding something – he keeps disappearing in the evenings …and after he leaves, Bella hears strange sounds in the house. The gas lights dim for no apparent reason. Is Bella losing her grip on reality? Or is something more sinister afoot?
A much-used word in modern society, ‘gaslighting’ — psychologically manipulating people into questioning their own sanity — draws its origins from the play, in which the household’s gas lights flicker and dim on the evenings when Bella is alone, causing her to question her own sanity.
The original playwright of Gaslight was also no stranger to difficult circumstances. Born in Sussex, England in 1904, Patrick Hamilton’s parents were writers. However, due to his father’s alcoholism and financial mismanagement, his family spent much of his youth in boarding houses.
Gaslight – also known as Angel Street when it transferred to Broadway – was written during a particularly dark period in Hamilton’s life. Six years prior to its writing, Hamilton was hit by a drunk driver and dragged through the streets of London which left him with multiple disfiguring injuries. Two years later, his mother committed suicide. He suffered from depression and began drinking to deal with the symptoms of his illness. He died from cirrhosis of the liver and kidney failure in 1962, at the age of 58.
Despite all of this, two of Hamilton’s plays became extraordinarily successful. Alfred Hitchcock’s 1948 thriller Rope was based on Hamilton’s namesake play. The 1944 film of Gaslight starred a young Angela Lansbury and Ingrid Bergman who won an Academy Award for her performance. Angel Street was also a massive hit on Broadway and remains one of the longest-running non-musicals in Broadway history with 1,295 total performances.
February 20 – March 3