The term “gaslighting” – a form of psychological abuse that makes the victim question their own sanity – has been much written about and discussed in recent years.
It gets its name from this 1938 stage play by Patrick Hamilton. Set in 1880, the story takes place in the London home of the apparently respectable Mr Jack Manningham (Damien Matthews) and his wife Bella (Charlotte Brimble).
Manningham’s manipulative behaviour – and his flirtatious relationship with Nancy the maid (Rhiannon Handy, excellent) – are evident in the first few minutes, setting the audience immediately on edge.
Matthews and Brimble are both superb in their roles as the domineering husband and terrified wife, as is David Acton as Rough – a former detective who turns up out of the blue investigating a cold murder case. Under Robin Herford’s tight direction, the cast really succeed in turning up the tension.
The Mill at Sonning’s intimate stage is a perfect fit for this Victorian-set thriller. Its themes around power within relationships and mental health resonate strongly today. I found myself thoroughly sucked in.
Gaslight is at The Mill at Sonning until 13 April