This week I was lucky enough to see Rope at the Queens Theatre Hornchurch. I have always enjoyed the Hitchcock film based on the play by Patrick Hamilton, but I have never seen a theatre production of it before. I had high hopes for this one and was not disappointed.
Rope tells the story of two 1920’s upper-middle class friends; Wyndham Brandon and Charles Granillo, who murder an acquaintance for no other reason than to see if they can get away with it. So confident are they in their criminal intelligence, that they invite an assortment of friends over, including the deceased’s mother, for an evening party, all the while having his body hidden in the middle of the room.
The entire play is set in the living room of a high end London flat. The set design and lighting are worthy of particular applaud here. For the first 10 minutes at least the lightening is very low lit by candle and cigarette light, before almost unnoticeable, it increases in luminosity until you realise that you can see a little more. The brilliant lighting also contributes heavily to the illusion of other rooms, with the sound design and lighting hinting at the activities in the realms beyond what we could see. At times I pined to be able to catch a glimpse of the dancing around the grammar phone in the imaginary room next door.
The cast were contradictory and brilliant. Fred Lancaster and Phoebe Sparrow, were wonderfully annoying as the young, naive and energetic society darlings; Kenneth Raglan and Leila Arden. Nico Pimpare as Sabot was not on stage nearly enough for my liking. The stars of the show however were George Kemp, whose egotistical, brash and ice cold portrayal of Wyndham Brandon was excellent, as was James Sutton’s much more subtle portrayal of Charles Granillo, who was fascinating to watch as his guilt and anxiety took him over. The run away star for me though, was Sam Jenkins-Shaw as Rupert Cadell. At the beginning of the play I had no idea how integral to the story he would become. His portrayal was a masterclass in character development, timing and delivery. We see him progress from intellectual, sneering and bitter war veteran, to voice of reason and suspicion before culminating in a desperate longing for the first time in his life to be wrong. Simply outstanding.
Do not miss this production of Rope it comes highly recommended from me. Go for the achingly tense pauses, the atmospheric lighting, the superb acting and the funny and emotive story, where by the end of the show you will question just who you are rooting for.