Geraldine Hakewill as Bella Kate Fitzpatrick as Elizabeth and Toby Schmitz as Jack in Gaslight photo by Brett BoardmanBy any measure this is a beautiful production to watch. It’s immediately obvious that a great deal of care and attention has been lavished on every aspect of its preparation.

Renee Mulder has designed a magnificent setting to represent the Victorian mansion that Jack Mannering and his wife Bella inhabit. In fact so imposing and beautifully furnished that at first it’s difficult to imagine why Bella would be so unhappy to live there.

Mulder’s costumes too are beautiful, particularly Bella’s first act housecoat, in which Geraldine Hakewill, as Bella, looks absolutely exquisite. Among her many talents, Hakewill knows how to wear costumes and in this play she does so magnificently.

The special effects are impressive. Gaslights which come on individually then fade whenever the gas level drops. Sunlight streams through the windows to signal that it’s morning and strange noises rattle unnervingly in the attic in the evenings. There’s unsettling music that warns of foreboding happenings.

The casting also could hardly be more perfect. Toby Schmitz is suitably suave and handsome as Jack Mannering. His clothes are meticulously tailored, his manners just a little too polished, and perhaps he’s just a little too familiar around the insolent young maid, played with flair by Courtney Cavallaro.

Kate Fitzpatrick in a welcome return to the stage is suitably efficient and circumspect as the all-seeing housekeeper. Geraldine Hakewill’s insecure Bella confides in her, but can she be trusted? Finally there’s the mysterious Alice Barlow, whom we never see, but whom it is revealed, was murdered in this house.

Everything necessary for a perfect Victorian melodrama is present and by interval the audience was completely hooked.

However on opening night, as the second act progressed, there was a sense that the cast were unsettled. Awkward pauses and revelations that were greeted with laughter rather than gasps, then finally a poorly executed finale which threatened to turn melodrama into slapstick, gave the impression that the play had been under-rehearsed.

Perhaps it was to do with the writing, as this is an adaptation of Paul Hamilton’s original play, or perhaps it has something to do with the subject matter of coercive control which now seems so prevalent as to make it difficult for a modern audience to accept that Bella would not have recognised this behaviour sooner, or having realised what was happening, as she apparently did, would have left herself so exposed.

Hopefully this can be rectified quickly so that audiences will leave the theatre fulfilled, rather than scratching their heads.

Canberra Theatre – Canberra Theatre Centre, Civic Square, Canberra
Performance: Wednesday 15 May 2024
Season continues to Sunday 19 May 2024

Following its Canberra season, Gaslight continues its Australian tour to Perth, Newcastle, Parramatta and Sydney. For more information, visit: for details.

Image: Geraldine Hakewill as Bella, Kate Fitzpatrick as Elizabeth and Toby Schmitz as Jack in Gaslight – photo by Brett Boardman

Review: Bill Stephens OAM