State Theatre Company South Australia has announced that it will return to the stage in September with a production of Gaslight to be presented at Adelaide’s newly refurbished Her Majesty’s Theatre. Not only will it mark the first time STCSA has performed a full theatrical production in front of a live audience since March when restrictions were introduced due to the coronavirus pandemic, but it will be the first major production to open at the historic theatre following its $66 million upgrade.

Ksenja Logos will play Belle Manningham in Gaslight. Photograph courtesy of State Theatre Company South Australia

Gaslight was originally scheduled to open at the Adelaide Festival Centre’s Dunstan Playhouse but will be presented at Her Majesty’s Theatre instead in order to accommodate COVID-19 physical distancing requirements. The capacity for the 1467-seat venue will be halved, with one empty seat between each audience member in what the theatre has described as a chequerboard layout.

The Adelaide Festival Centre manages Her Majesty’s Theatre. Adelaide Festival Centre CEO and Artistic Director Douglas Gautier AM said that the venue will implement strict hygiene measures.

“To ensure people feel comfortable and safe returning to our venues, Adelaide Festival Centre has been working closely with SA Health to ensure the safety of all patrons, staff and artists. We have implemented several safety measures in our venues including physical distancing, hand sanitising stations, and frequent cleaning,” says Gautier.

Mitchell Butel, Artistic Director of STCSA, said he was delighted – and doubtless relieved – to be able to welcome audiences back. “To be the first large-scale show in this glorious reinvention of Her Majesty’s Theatre is historic. To be the first large-scale show to open in Adelaide, and possibly Australia, since the flattening of the COVID-19 curve in South Australia is exciting. To do this with a dynamic reinvention of a classic thriller in Gaslight is the cherry on top,” said Butel.

“Our hearts are with other states and theatre-makers who have not been as lucky and we hope that tides turn shortly, so they too can heal and entertain audiences with great works of art.”

Gaslight was written by Patrick Hamilton in 1938 and spawned the 1944 film starring Ingrid Bergman and Charles Boyer. It tells a creepy story of psychological manipulation. Bella Manningham is on edge. She’s hearing footsteps in the night, pictures are moving by themselves, and the gaslights in the drawing room are dimming without being touched. What’s more, her husband is constantly disappearing. He tells her she may be mad and she starts to believe him…

Catherine Fitzgerald will direct the production, which features a South Australian cast including Eileen Darley, Ellen Freeman, Ksenja Logos, Nathan O’Keefe and Katherine Sortini.

Speaking to Limelight when he launched the STCSA 2020 season, Butel said: “[Previous STCSA Artistic Director] Geordie Brookman has done a great job in the past few years programming lots of classics that he has subverted in lots of interesting ways, by Shakespeare and Oscar Wilde and Chekhov and Ibsen. I thought it would be great to have a classic that’s a little more lowbrow!”

Butel said that Fitzgerald will reimagine the play, “turning it on its head [so that] we view the whole story through a more feminist lens, and so she’s going to twist a few things in the production that will give life to that. It was interesting to me that that word ‘gaslighting’ is such a huge part of our conversation now about gender politics and identity politics, but it’s derived from this 1930s crime melodrama about people deceiving other people into thinking that they’re crazy. I thought that’s an interesting way of tapping into the conversation, it’s theatrical and fun as well.”

Meanwhile, Sydney’s Griffin Theatre Company has announced that it will perform Mark Rogers’ play Superheroes in September – its first production back in the SBW Stables Theatre since the doors were closed because of the coronavirus. Directed by Shari Sebbens, the play – a chamber work for three actors, which won the 2019 Griffin Award and the 2019 Patrick White Award – follows a day in the life of two women on opposite sides of the globe. Griffin announced this week that the cast will feature Gemma Bird Matheson, Claire Lovering and Aleks Mikic.

Gaslight plays at Her Majesty’s Theatre, Adelaide, September 4 – 19. TICKETS

Superheroes plays at the SBW Stables Theatre, September 4 – October 19 TICKETS