Patrick Hamilton’s 1929 play Rope, has been humorously revived for OutFox Productions by director John Fricker. The play depicts two wealthy, well-educated young men, Wyndham Brandon and Charles Granillo, who kill a fellow student and lock the body in a large chest, which later that evening serves as the buffet table for a dinner party. A series of invited guests arrive and the play becomes a backwards murder mystery; the audience try to decipher whether the murderers will be ratted out or not.
Christopher Walsh as the vulnerable, shaken Granillo gives a textured performance that captures the indecision of the character. Walsh’s Granillo is something of an endearing puppet of the domineering Brandon. Joe Sowerbutts’ performance as Brandon is somewhat mannered, though he does capture the sense of “doing it for the thrill” that is crucial to the character.
Bryant skilfully portrays the humanity and pain hidden behind Cadell’s cynicism; a wonderfully engaging, thoughtful performance.
The threat comes in the form of damaged veteran of the Great War turned poet and die-hard cynic, Rupert Cadell, brilliantly played by Will Bryant. Bryant skilfully portrays the humanity and pain hidden behind Cadell’s cynicism; a wonderfully engaging, thoughtful performance. Of the dinner party guests, Ana Luderowski and Marco Petrucco stand out. Playing scatty flapper, Leila, and the focus of her affection, Kenneth Raglan, the duo give witty, light-hearted performances.
Fricker’s direction balances a frenetic, almost farcical pace with well-earned moments of silence while playing up the dark comedy of Hamilton’s script, which on the whole it works. There is an inherent humour in the dramatic irony of the situation, but this joke quickly wears thin and some variation could be beneficial. Indeed, the play seems to never quite get to the point.
Fricker has conjoined the first two acts of the traditionally three-act script, making for a marathon act one and a bizarrely short act two. It may have been more effective to run straight through, perhaps with some minor cuts to the beefy script, to avoid breaking the spell of ‘real time’ action.
On the whole, though, this is an enjoyable production. The mannered performances let down the subtlety of the script, but it is a worthy revival of a strong play.
*** (3 stars)
Runs until 27th April