Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Gaslight by Patrick Hamilton, Old Vic 11-Jun-2007 - Director: Peter Gill

For some reason during tonight’s performance I kept wondering if I’d ever seen Rosamund Pile in colour. Something about her pale skin and hair together with her grey dress made me wonder if I’d ever seen her in colourful than a beige or cream. Thinking harder I believe she wore some bright colours (or brightly coloured trimmings) in Summer and Smoke last year.

When I first heard about Rosamund Pike she annoyed me. It wasn’t her fault of course it was that the publicity for Die Another Die seemed to talk about her as if she was already well known (none of the usual ‘newcomer Rosamund Pike’ stuff). As her name and face were unfamiliar to me from TV, film or theatre I wrongly assumed that she was some model-turned-actress doyen of the style pages and celebrity mags. I never saw any evidence of that, though and she impressed me in things like Hitchcock Blonde and Summer and Smoke. That said I’m still a little uneasy about exactly where she earned her top of the bill status. She’s good but is she that good?

I suspect that the director and cast decided that they couldn’t do this play as straight melodrama. It wasn’t quite played for laughs either but there was a slightly jokey feel to things when Kenneth Cranham was on stage. I hope it was deliberate because if the occasional, sometimes nervous laughs were unintentional then it won’t look good in front of the critics. It certainly didn’t match the descriptions of the play and subsequent movies which talk about the play as a psychological thriller. Perhaps playing it straight would have looked too ridiculous to modern eyes.

There was one incident that almost halted the play tonight, Ms Pike managed to drop one of the important-to-the-plot rubies which bounced nosily of the stage before disappearing from sight. Pike and Cranham struggled not to join in with the audience’s laughter (which turned into applause) and it was rather lucky that an interval started a couple of minutes later because I’m not sure that they or the audience felt willing to take anything too seriously at the time.

I was actually mildly disappointed with the play given my knowledge of Patrick Hamilton’s novels – I remember being astounded at the depiction of madness and obsession in Hangover Square and it was a book that I’d only picked up because I’d heard it was something that I vaguely ought to read. The play’s ending is telegraphed well before halfway and there is never enough jeopardy for the heroine. I almost wanted it all to be in her imagination or some tortuous trick cooked up by her husband and the ‘detective’, maybe even that the detective was the bad guy. I’m not sure that the husband was given enough opportunity by the play to convince her that she imagined everything.

I’m complaining too much so I ought to mention that everybody seemed to have a good time and even booed the husband (Andrew Woodall) as if he were a pantomime villain (not sure that the cast and director were necessarily looking for that reaction).

I’m always reminded when I see Rowena Cooper (who played Elizabeth) of the first time I encountered her. It was on TV in the eighties where she played Alan B’Stard’s male election agent who got a sex-change part way though the series.

Andrew Woodall was in Peter Gill’s play Certain Young Men and I remember in that play he played a man in a monogamous homosexual relationship who has an affair with a younger man (possibly played by Danny Dyer). His character cursed himself for his weakness but still gave into temptation. Not relevant of course.

No comments:

Product Cloud