Stars explained: * A production of no real merit with failings in all areas. ** A production showing evidence of not enough time or effort, or even talent, and which never breathes any real life into the piece – or a show lumbered with a terrible script. *** A good enjoyable show which might have some small flaws but has largely achieved what it set out to do.**** An excellent show which shows a great deal of work and stage craft with no noticeable or major flaws.***** A four star show which has found that extra bit of magic which lifts theatre to another plane.
Half stars fall between the ratings

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Martin Salter as Jack Manningham with wife Bella, played by Bethany Grainger


The Nonentities

The Rose Theatre, Kidderminster


The Nonentities return to full force with a gripping production of Patrick Hamilton’s 1938 acclaimed thriller, Gaslight. The title of the play has passed into infamy as a single word `Gaslighting’, which has come to represent the abusive and demeaning nature of one individual against another person or group, in order to belittle and thereby control them.

In the play, a man with a criminal past, Jack Manningham, has married a young and impressionable young woman, Bella.  His overbearing and contradictory personality has reduced her to a nervous wreck and his deliberate and cruel flirting with the servants; further serves to undermine her confidence and standing in the house.

Yet Mr Manningham has an even darker secret past. As Bella descends into believing she is mad, a saviour comes to rescue her in the form of former Detective Mr Rough. He knows why Manningham secretly leaves the house every night and is about to solve the mystery of a case that has eluded him for 20 years.

It’s never easy playing the villain and Martin Salter as Jack Manningham treated the character with the contradictory attitude it needed. Polite and engaging one minute and sneeringly dismissive of his wife Bella the next. 

It’s easy to overdo such a complex man, knowing the secrets his character is hiding. Mostly broodingly and sarcastically polite, he saved the full energy of his rage for several choice moments, stunning the audience with his forceful outbursts of anger.

gas trio

Martin Salter's Manningham is wary of former detective Mr Rough, played by Stuart Wishart with Bethany Grainger's Bella a worried bystander

Nonentities’ mainstay, Stuart Wishart handed in another stellar performance as the detective Mr Rough. The skill of Hamilton’s writing comes in a very `Hitchcock’ way. Rough’s description of his presence neither gives the game away or predicts the outcome and therefore it’s imperative that an actor should be very precise in his delivery as to critically move the plot forward with clarity for the audience. Mr Wishart performed that task admirably and further points were added for his light but persistent Scottish accent that never faltered.

The role of Bella is a complex one. Constantly expected to have to break down, cry, protest the disbelief and exhaustion that the act of Gaslighting eventually brings to an individual, is a heavy undertaking and Bethany Grainger in the role was superb. Featuring in about 90 per cent of the play, all of which take place in a single parlour room, she never once missed a beat and her scenes with Mr Rough were fluent and focused, commanding the full attention of the near full audience. It was clearly a joyous relief to her at the curtain call to return to herself and enjoy the company’s rapturous applause.

Great support came too in the form of Faye Bingham as the flirty maid Nancy and Hannah Tolley as Housekeeper, Elizabeth.

Directed by Tori Wakeman this crafted Victorian thriller is the blueprint for so many `living with the enemy ‘thrillers that followed. No other play has targeted a human failing so well as to have its title posthumously elevated to a general an example of the condition.

The Nonentities continue to produce challenging and thoughtful work and prove once again they are at the top of their game in delivering first class theatre to the region. To 06-11-21 

Jeff Grant


The Nonentities 

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