GASLIGHTING has become such a familiar term in today's world that it's hard to imagine it was coined from a play written in the late 1930s.

Playwright Patrick Hamilton could never have imagined the title of his extraordinary thriller Gaslight could become such a powerful term for psychological abuse.

In this respect, Gaslight, which was written in 1938 and is on tour this week at the Theatre Royal in Bath, has stood the test of time and gained an increasing relevance to modern life.

On the surface, it's a melodrama set in the seedy world of Victorian London but is frighteningly accurate and insightful in its portrayal of an abusive relationship.

Under Lucy Bailey's astute direction, Gaslight's main character Jack Manningham manipulates and undermines his wife, Bella.

James Wilby plays Manningham as a man who uses anger and emotion to dismiss and belittle his wife, hiding her watch, brooch and a grocer's invoice, removing a picture from the sitting room wall, and withholding a letter from her relatives.

With each activity, he makes Bella think she is going mad, until she is saved by Detective Rough, ably played by Martin Shaw as a retired Irish police officer with a fondness for whisky.

Charlotte Emmerson portrays Bella as a young wife whose sanity is slowly but surely being ground down, despite pleading with her husband to love her like he used to.

Mary Chater plays the Elizabeth and Georgia Clarke-Day is Nancy. Paul Westwood and Liam O'Leary have walk on parts as the two policemen.

Gaslight was last seen at Bath’s Theatre Royal in 1986.The current production is on to Saturday, October 19.

With a set cleverly designed by William Dudley and sound design by Tony Award winner Mic Pool, Gaslight is well worth a visit before it goes to London's West End.

John Baker