Ahead of their next production, the classic psychological thriller Gaslight, we’ve been chatting with Brackley Players Director, Jim Howson…
Why did you want to direct Gaslight?
Gaslight is a play that I’ve wanted to direct for years. I first saw it when I was a teenager and it really captured my imagination. It’s a very atmospheric and powerful piece of drama – it made quite an impact on me.
The play is considered to be a classic. Why do you think that is?
It has really stood the test of time! Written in 1938, it was a hit in the West End, and was soon made into a film. It then enjoyed a long run on Broadway with Vincent Price playing Mr Manningham, and an American version of the film was made. Through the years it’s always being staged somewhere – by many amateur companies but also professional productions. It’s often out on tour.
It has some great roles for actors to play, really strong characters for them to get their teeth into. Equally, as a well-written psychological thriller, it’s a really satisfying play for audiences to watch.
Why is the play still so relevant today?
The themes still resonate with everyone. It’s essentially about relationships between people and the bullying that can take place within families which is concealed from the outside world. Domestic violence and manipulation were radical issues to put before audiences in 1938, but Patrick Hamilton got away with it by dressing it up as a Victorian drama. People could tell themselves that that sort of thing didn’t happen anymore. But it did and it still does today. The play gave its name to the phenomenon of ‘gaslighting’, now more formally known as coercive control, which eventually became a criminal offence just four years ago, in 2015.
How have you approached the rehearsal process?
We’ve taken a very collaborative approach to rehearsing. There’s no point having an actor working hard without allowing them to apply their own intellect to the development of the role as well as the director’s. Good theatre is an ensemble process and I’ve had a great response from the cast to working this way. If you give people the space to react and contribute to the dramatic development of the production, you get more than the sum of its parts.
What are the particular challenges of this piece?
The play could tempt you into thinking that it’s just a Victorian melodrama, which was just a disguise to allow a challenging play to be presented at the time it was written. You have to recognise that disguise and see through to what lies beneath.
Brackley Players present Patrick Hamilton’s classic Victorian-set thriller, Gaslight, at Southfield Primary Academy in Brackley from Wednesday 29 to Friday 31 May at 7.30pm.
Tickets are £9 for adults and £7 for concessions and can be bought online at www.ticketsource.co.uk/brackleyplayers, in person from Davies and Partners in Brackley or by ringing Keith on 07516 408897.