Set to be one of the most talked about performances of 2024, Gaslight, a modern adaptation of the 1940’s suspenseful thriller by Patrick Hamilton and starring Geraldine Hakewill and Toby Schmitz, is set to premiere in Brisbane as part of the 2024 Queensland Theatre season.
The highly-anticipated play, set in 1901 London, will be directed by Queensland Theatre’s Artistic Director Lee Lewis, and produced by Rodney Rigby for Newtheatricals (Come From Away, Jersey Boys, Good Night, Oscar starring Tony Award winner Sean Hayes) and Queensland Theatre. It has been adapted by respected Canadian writers and performers Patty Jamieson and Johnna Wright and world premiered at the internationally renowned Shaw Festival in Canada in 2022.
“In the original play, a police inspector solves the mystery. Our version started with a “What if” – what if there is no inspector? If no one comes to rescue her, can Bella rescue herself?” said Patty Jamieson of their feminist adaptation.
“Gaslight still remains true to the classic genre though. There’s a hero and a villain, a spark of danger and moral injustice, and a breadcrumb trail of clues for the audience to follow. This is one of those rare, exciting refreshments of a classic thriller, with an added twist that means new suspense and new satisfaction,” added co-creator Johnna Wright.
Bella Manningham is a young wife who seemingly has it all – a nice home and a comfortable upper-middle class life. Her housekeepers, Elizabeth and Nancy, attend to her and help run the household. Her husband, Jack, appears attentive and loving. So why is Bella on edge? As we learn more about the Manningham household, it becomes clear that something is amiss.
Despite his doting appearance, Jack is hiding something – he keeps disappearing in the evenings …and after he leaves, Bella hears strange sounds in the house. The gas lights dim for no apparent reason. Is Bella losing her grip on reality? Or is something more sinister afoot?
A much-used word in modern society, ‘gaslighting’ — psychologically manipulating people into questioning their own sanity — draws its origins from the play, in which the household’s gas lights flicker and dim on the evenings when Bella is alone, causing her to question her own sanity.
The original playwright of Gaslight was also no stranger to difficult circumstances. Born in Sussex, England in 1904, Patrick Hamilton’s parents were writers. However, due to his father’s alcoholism and financial mismanagement, his family spent much of his youth in boarding houses.
Gaslight – also known as Angel Street when it transferred to Broadway – was written during a particularly dark period in Hamilton’s life. Six years prior to its writing, Hamilton was hit by a drunk driver and dragged through the streets of London which left him with multiple disfiguring injuries. Two years later, his mother committed suicide. He suffered from depression and began drinking to deal with the symptoms of his illness. He died from cirrhosis of the liver and kidney failure in 1962, at the age of 58.
Despite all of this, two of Hamilton’s plays became extraordinarily successful. Alfred Hitchcock’s 1948 thriller Rope was based on Hamilton’s namesake play. The 1944 film of Gaslight starred a young Angela Lansbury and Ingrid Bergman who won an Academy Award for her performance. Angel Street was also a massive hit on Broadway and remains one of the longest-running non-musicals in Broadway history with 1,295 total performances.
Geraldine Hakewill is one of Australia’s best-known theatre and television performers. Graduating from WAAPA in 2008, she has since starred in Les Liaisons Dangereuses, Fury, Baal, The Real Thing, Disgraced, Chimerica and Julius Caesar (Sydney Theatre Company), Peter Pan (Belvoir), which toured to New York, Tartuffe (Bell Shakespeare Company), The Rise and Fall of Little Voice (Darlinghurst Theatre Company), and Macbeth (Melbourne Theatre Company).
Geraldine’s television credits include lead roles in Ms Fisher’s Modern Murder Mysteries, Wakefield and Wanted for which she was nominated for a TV Week Logie for Most Outstanding Newcomer.
Toby Schmitz is a respected writer, director and actor who was most recently seen on stage in Amadeus (Red Line) opposite Michael Sheen. His other acting theatre credits include The Rover, Hamlet, The Wild Duck, Measure for Measure, Thyestes, Strange Interlude, Ruben Guthrie and Dance of Death (Belvoir), The Present, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead, Travesties, Hanging Man, Rabbit and The Great (Sydney Theatre Company), Wild and The Importance of Being Earnest (Melbourne Theatre Company), Much Ado About Nothing (Bell Shakespeare), The Boyce Trilogy (Griffin Theatre), and Thom Pain (based on nothing) and Degenerate Art (Red Line Productions), which he wrote and directed. Toby received Helpmann Award Nominations for his performances in Thyestes, Much Ado About Nothing and Ruben Guthrie, and Sydney Theatre Award Nominations for Howie The Rookie, The Great and Ruben Guthrie.
Lee Lewis is the Artistic Director of Queensland Theatre and one of Australia’s leading directors. For Queensland Theatre she has directed: First Casualty, Bernhardt/Hamlet, Return to the Dirt, Prima Facie, Our Town, Mouthpiece, Rice. For Griffin she has directed: Prima Facie, The Almighty Sometimes, Kill Climate Deniers, The Homosexuals or Faggots, Rice, Gloria, The Bleeding Tree (three Helpmann Awards), 8 Gigabytes of Hardcore Pornography, Masquerade (co-directed with Sam Strong), Emerald City, A Rabbit for Kim Jong-il, The Serpent’s Table, Silent Disco, The Bull The Moon and the Coronet of Stars, The Call, A Hoax, and The Nightwatchman,.
For Griffin and Bell Shakespeare she directed The Literati; for Bell Shakespeare: The School for Wives, Twelfth Night, for Belvoir: That Face, This Heaven, 2000 Feet Away, Half and Half, A Number, 7 Blowjobs and Ladybird; for Melbourne Theatre Company: Gloria, Hayfever, David Williamson’s Rupert, which toured to Washington DC as part of the World Stages International Arts Festival and to Sydney’s Theatre Royal in 2014; for Sydney Theatre Company: Mary Stuart, Honour, Love Lies Bleeding and ZEBRA!; for ATYP: Battlegrounds and Citizenship; for Darwin Festival Highway of Lost Hearts; for NIDA: After Dinner, Big Love, Shopping and Fucking, and The Winter’s Tale; and for WAAPA: As You Like It.
Further casting announcements will be made in the coming months.