Rope

by Patrick Hamilton; dir Chris Ward
Talisman Theatre, Kenilworth
6 – 11 February 2012

 

Most famous as the 1948 Hitchcock film, this play from 1929 is said to be inspired by the 1924 murder case where American university students Leopold and Loeb murdered a schoolboy just for the thrill of it.

In Rope, the setting is England and two university students, Brandon (Calum Speed) and Granillo (Dan Searles) have just murdered a fellow student – for the thrill of it. They hide the body in a large chest and proceed to hold a small dinner party, serving a buffet from on top of the same chest as a way to drag out the thrill. Among those invited are the dead student’s father Sir Johnston Kentley (Alexander Robertson) and their old schoolteacher Rupert Cadell (Graham Underhill).

The story is filled with taut suspense as Cadell slowly but surely homes in on what is in the chest. The suspense was spoiled somewhat, however, by the preponderance of caricatures on stage rather than real, believable characters. This was so widespread one feels that the director’s recent history of directing whodunits, where caricatures are more at home, has had a strong bearing. Brandon appeared to have been modelled on Dr Evil, and Kenneth Raglan (James Robert Peakman) and Mrs Debenham (Lynda Lewis) had been reduced to comic characters. This is such a shame and took most of the wind out of the story’s sails.

Out of the bunch, Alexander Robertson as Kentley was clearly the most realistic character and Dan Searles performed well as Granillo, although I was a little confused by the accent. The play is largely saved by the quality of the script and Graham Underhill’s Cadell in the last scene as things rise to a crescendo.

An ok evening out, but don’t worry too much if you missed it.

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