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Rope review at Queen’s Theatre, Hornchurch – ‘strongly performed’

James Sutton and George Kemp in Rope at Queen's Theatre, Hornchurch

Patrick Hamilton’s first play Rope may be less familiar to many than Gaslight but it’s more tautly constructed, shifting gears from comedy to thriller with surprising alacrity.

Inspired by the real-life story of Leopold and Loeb, it sees two wealthy undergraduates attempt to commit the perfect, motiveless murder and get away with it.

It’s a curious comedy thriller that wilfully crosses the boundaries of decency – it’s surprising it wasn’t banned by the Lord Chamberlain in 1929 when it was originally staged.

Rope remains an engrossing black comedy, highlighting the pitfalls of intellectual vanity and the dangers of the superman complex. This production, assertively directed by Queen’s Theatre’s artistic director Douglas Rintoul marks a slight shift in gear to much darker material than in his previous, fruitful collaborations with the New Wolsey, Ipswich.

Ruari Murchison’s set design is an intelligent fusion of black-box austerity and astute period features, all complemented by Mark Dymock’s film noir-style lighting.

Despite some dated references, a heightened sense of reality evolves credibly within the frame of the play. The performances play a large part in this. George Kemp nails the cool, psychotic Brandon with icy precision. James Sutton does strong work as Brandon’s uneasy collaborator Charles Granillo.

Standing in their way is Sam Jenkins-Shaw’s acerbic ex-serviceman Rupert Cadell. Jenkins-Shaw underscores the fragility of the character, broken by the atrocities of war, with a quavering moral compass that hints at a much greater danger on the horizon.

Douglas Rintoul: ‘A theatre’s atmosphere always comes from the top’ [1]

Verdict
Smartly presented and strongly performed revival of Patrick Hamilton’s thriller  

Production Information

Production
Rope
Venue
Queen's Theatre
City
Hornchurch
Starts
February 15, 2018
Ends
March 3, 2018
Press night
February 17, 2018
Authors
Patrick Hamilton
Director
Douglas Rintoul
Set
Ruari Murchison
Lighting
Mark Dymock
Sound
Yvonne Gilbert
Technical
Nicola Thomas (costume supervisor
Stage manager
Lauren Harvey
Cast includes
Janet Amsden, Cara Chase, George Kemp, Sam Jenkins-Shaw, Fred Lancaster, Nico Pimpare, Phoebe Sparrow, James Sutton
Producer
Queen’s Theatre Hornchurch, New Wolsey Theatre Ipswich
Running time
2hrs 15mins