INSPIRED by the real life 1924 crime where two American students; the notorious Leopold and Loeb, murdered an acquaintance for no reason other than the vanity of wanting to see if they could commit ‘the perfect murder,’ Patrick Hamilton penned the play Rope. This had lengthy runs in both the West End and Broadway and was then transported to the screen by Alfred Hitchcock, though the film met with some controversy as to its standards of successful conversion from stage to screen.
Now in a new production by The Queen’s Theatre’s Artistic Director Douglas Rintoul the ‘will they, won’t they get away with it’ suspense is set to keep the theatre-goer on the edge of their seat once again.
Following an eerie musical intro, the opening scene dimly lit by just candle light, set the dark nature of the scenes which saw Brandon (George Kemp) and his fellow Oxford undergraduate Granillo (James Sutton) loading the already dead body of their fellow student they have just murdered into a wooden chest.
Almost immediately Kemp as Brandon magnificently personifies his air of bravado and pretentiousness about the murder proclaiming: “Passionless, motiveless, faultless and clueless murder… I am truly, wonderfully alive”.
It’s almost an experiment for him, as if to test that his mental brilliance is all that is needed to keep his perfect crime undiscovered.
As he convinces a not so composed fellow perpetrator of crime, Granillo that throwing a party, literally over the dead body, where the guest including the victims mum will eat off the chest containing the victim, is part of the marvel of their crime. Sutton portrays Granilllo with prowess as he fights with his conscience throughout the night gradually cracking with fear into a drunken stupor.
The cast do a wonderful job of creating the atmosphere which is full of suspense and intrigue. Light relief though comes from the characters of Kenneth (Fred Lancaster) and Leila (Phoebe Sparrow) whose playful flirting and quips heighten the tension of the ‘will they, won’t they get away with it’ crux of the play leading the audience waiting for an ‘imminent exposure’ with jokes about murder, even suggesting there is indeed a body in the chest.
Sam Jenkins-Shaw wonderfully pleases the audience in his role as the wounded and psychologically afflicted by the Great War, Rupert. His sardonic wit towards his fellow party goers and hosts is a charm in itself.
Later as Rupert’s suspicions grow, he draws you in to the consciousness of the moral uncertainty of the night as he debates the question of murder with the guests. “Killing someone as a soldier is considered war but killing someone as a civilian murder” and that the reliability of your moral compass is entirely dependent on where you happen to be standing, you almost wonder if he will participate in Brandon and Granillo’s twisted game if he discovers the crime.
As the Party finishes, the evening is definitely not over, but for the outcome I will not spoil it just recommend you go and find out if the whistle is blown.