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A drama in the Lyceum when Gaslight gave me the vapours

By Eddie McIlwaine

In a way, I'm relieved that Gaslight, the stage drama, isn't coming to Belfast. You see, way back in 1944, when I was a boy, Gaslight, the movie, scared me rigid at the old Lyceum picture house. And if the touring theatre version of this horror thriller was to arrive here, it could give me the vapours all over again - even though I should know better as a grown-up.

Way back in 1944, I slept with the light on for a week after my night in the stalls at the Lyceum.

Anyway, I'm being spared by the Gaslight Company, which has just raised the curtain on the spooky drama and is now taking it on tour, starring Kara Tointon of EastEnders fame.

Let's hope, for my sake, there isn't a change of mind about Belfast.

The original Gaslight, written by dramatist Patrick Hamilton, is a 1938 play, set in the fog-bound London of 1880, which gave rise to the term "gaslighting" - a form of psychological abuse, in which false information is presented to the victim with the intent of making her doubt herself.

The storyline centres on the upper middle-class home of Jack Manningham and his wife Bella, played on stage by Kara.

What perturbs Bella is Jack's unexplained disappearances from the house: he will not tell her where he is going and, as the horror unfolds, it becomes clear that Jack is intent on convincing Bella that she is going insane - even to the point of assuring her she is "imagining" the gaslight in the house is dimming.

Gaslight, the film, starred Charles Boyer, Ingrid Bergman and Joseph Cotten. And you are right - I've only seen it once.

Another film that frightened me as a boy was The Invisible Man, a science-fiction horror movie based on an HG Wells novel.

It starred Claude Rains as the invisible one, mostly as a disembodied voice. He spent most of his on-screen time covered in bandages, which terrified me.

Rains plays a scientist, who has devoted himself to research and invents a way to make the body invisible. He successfully carries out this procedure on himself, but fails in his attempt to reverse it.

I used to see the Invisible Man everywhere - if you see what I mean.

 

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