Championed as a serious novelist by admirers including John Betjeman, Patrick Hamilton is now best remembered for the films based on his stage thrillers Gaslight (two versions) and Rope.
Ironically he hated all three films, as well as the one based on his novel Hangover Square.
His disappointment at their distortion of his work was apparently a contributing factor to his final descent into alcoholism.
But judging from this latest production, which ends an abbreviated Charles Vance Summer Rep Season, Gaslight could do with a bit of added cinematic atmosphere.
This stagey psychological thriller with added Victorian fog, first seen in 1938, seems to belong not to much to another age as to two other ages.
The psychological aspect lies in the attempt, already well underway as the play opens, of domineering Jack Mannering to persuade his wife Bella that she is about to follow her mother into an asylum. But Hamilton takes a sideways step, eliminating any doubt as to what is going on by introducing a detective who knows what Jack’s little game is and wastes no time in sharing it with Bella and the audience.
As the detective’s counterplot works itself out, themes of sexual repression and hypocrisy lurk beneath the surface.
As the maid Nancy, Julia Main’s transition from insolent servility to full-on hussy is possibly the best thing in the show.
Otherwise it rattles along agreeably for a couple of hours, with Emily Outred as the naive and intimidated Bella conveying how vulnerable a Victorian wife would have been to a bullying husband. Marcus Webb’s Jack is suitably smug and villainous, and while Steve Dineen seems a bit youthful for the retired Inspector Rough, he brings a welcome sparkiness to the role.