7 JULY 1950, Page 17



cc Gaslight." By Patrick Hamilton. (Vaudeville.) THIS intelligent melodrama revives well. The sly, cruel tricks with which Manningham sets out to undermine first his wife's belief in her own sanity and, later, that sanity itself make excellent theatre ; the dreary house in Pimlico has an atmosphere charged with oppres- sion and suspense ; and the tell-tale dimming of the gaslight, which indicates mysterious goings-on upstairs, is a capital device. By the end of the first act we are more than ready for the appearance of Mr. Rough, representing—stolid yet resourceful, benign yet relentless—the forces of law and order. We feel sorry for Mrs. Manningham, we strongly disapprove of her husband, and we are relieved to know that there is a detective in the house.

But the art of putting two and two together on the stage—an exhibition of which now follows—depends for its success on not allowing the audience to see that they make four before the actors do ; and here Mr. Hamilton's skill fails him for a time, and, though we make allowances for the lady being very stupid and the detective very circumlocutory, we cannot help wishing that he would come to the point, and she would see what it is, a good deal more expeditiously than either does. However, very soon the beastly Mr. Manningham is back on the stage, Mr. Rough has made him- self (we cannot but feel) dangerously scarce, and the poor rabbit is once more under the spell of the snake. But not for long. Mr. Rough pops up again. " My men are in the house," he says, and in no time at all Mr. Manningham has been trussed up in a very perfunctory and inexpert way by two of the most bogus- looking policemen you ever saw (the producer really ought to over- haul this scene) and Mrs. Manningham is taking on him a rather over-theatrical revenge It all makes a very enjoyable evening, though the acting could be bettered. I would not change Mr George Merritt's cosy, ursine fairy godfather of a detective. but Miss Rosamund John, though she acts with great accomplishment, somehow fails to make Mrs. Manningham's desperate plight as moving as it might be. Perhaps this is partly Mr. Robert Newton's fault. There should be some- thing eerie—a flicker, perhaps, of the dreadful mania from which we are told he suffers—about Mr. Manningham ; Mr. Newton shows us only a cunning, brutish tyrant, a slow, deliberate,- almost mechanical monster. His strong performance serves very well, but I think there is more in the part than appears from his inter-