Review: Kara Tointon stars in Patrick Hamilton's GASLIGHT, UK Tour

I very rarely warm to touring productions of shows - especially plays - simply because they never seem to be anywhere near the same kind of calibre as West End and other London shows. Plays are notorious for this in my mind, regularly seeming to lack by way of talent and production value, but the current UK tour of Gaslight is an exception to the rule.

Patrick Hamilton's Gaslight was written in the late 1930s, but the comedy and thrill of the piece manage to hold up still in 2017. The play tells the story of a woman called Bella who's married to a man who very clearly likes to manipulate her. Her husband spends a lot of time trying to confuse and derange his wife in a bid to be rid of her and have an excuse to throw her into "the mad house". It isn't until one day when a mysterious man enters Bella's home that she finds reason to free herself from her evil husband and even get her own back along the way. If you're trying to work out the kind of vibe for the piece, think about The Woman In Black meets a play like Hobson's Choice: it's got enough thrill to keep you on the edge of your seat, but also enough humour in it to make it enjoyable.

Kara Tointon and Rupert Young as Bella and Jack Manningham in Gaslight

The cast in this production help to make it into a rather special night as well. The graceful and masterful Kara Tointon leads the cast with a performance so well crafted and pre-determined, it was incredibly easy to fall for Bella and root for her from the off. Tointon is fast becoming the stage star that she is destined to become and following this and her turn in ITV's The Sound of Music Live, I'm already longing to see what she turns her talents to next. Keith Allen also makes a hilarious and lovable Rough, the mysterious man who comes to visit Bella and helps her to realise her husband's ways. It's a role that really does require an actor who can work the stage well, being both lovable and sinister at many points throughout the play and Allen has the perfect talent for that. The other members of the cast - Rupert Young as Jack, Helen Anderson as Elizabeth, Charlotte Blackledge as Nancy and the ensemble members Adam Lilley and Grace Osborn - were equally fantastic.

Fascinatingly, the set on this piece impressed me a lot as well. There is only one set piece used throughout the entire show and apart from a few opening doors, nothing happens with it, but David Woodhead's ability to dress the set in an appropriate and interesting way meant that every time I was made to look around the room, I always felt like I was noticing new and exciting things; it made the play feel much less stagnant than it would feel in a normal one-room play and I liked it a lot. The same has to be said for Howard Hudson's lighting design (obviously very important in a play called Gaslight), as well as Ben and Max Ringham's composition and score choices, which still ring in my head now when I'm writing this review in the haunting and sinister way they were intended.

"Kara Tointon is fast become the stage star that she is destined to become"

I'm very happy to say that if you're looking for a fantastic play on tour around England this season then Gaslight is your answer. With enough tension and thrill to keep you hooked throughout, but with a suitable amount of comedy and hope to leave you feeling satisfied by the end of the show, it's a play that's definitely worth your time if it rolls into a town near you.

Gaslight currently plays at the Aylesbury Waterside Theatre thru Saturday January 21st; you can buy tickets here. The play then continues on a nationwide tour currently thru to March 11th. Check for local venue listing on the ATG Tickets website right now.

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