Creator: Pretty Villain Productions Ltd
Reviewer: Simon Topping
Pretty Villain Productions Ltd produce a taught reworking of Patrick Hamilton’s well-loved play of dark deeds and calculated murder, Rope; loosely based on an early twentieth-century true-life American crime scandal.
In a fashionable 1920’s Mayfair apartment two young men have just committed a murder. The body lies in a large chest in the middle of the room where a dinner party is about to take place.
For the main protagonist, Brandon, no feelings are attached to such a process, it is merely an intellectual exercise on how to commit a heinous misdeed and get away with it. Having the body so close to his invited guest adds a touch of excitement to the evening; highlighting his brilliance, in his own mind. However, his accomplice, Granillo, feels the act affect his psyche and turns to drink to soothe his nerves.
As the night proceeds, the hosts’ best-laid plans fall apart as one of the party, Rupert Cadell, begins to piece things together.
The production suffers a little from the constraints of the venue and subsequent staging. Audience members towards the back of the room cannot see the action on stage well or at all when any activity requires an actor to be crouched near the infamous chest containing the body.
The play is at its best when dark humour is explored and all the cast are fabulous. John Black as the deteriorating Granillo displays despair very convincingly and Neil James as the wily Cadell also excels. Graeme Dalling, as the arrogant Oxford student Brandon, holds the whole piece together with a charismatic performance that the audience cannot take their eyes off and Robert Cohen, as the dead boy’s father, displays some fabulous eating acting with great comic timing; an underrated skill that can often be seen with delight in David Jason’s (Only Fools and Horses, Open all Hours) canon of work.
Alfred Hitchcock’s masterly film of the play and the BBC comedy Psychoville’s marvellous homage (if you have never seen it, find time to watch it) are hard markers to surpass in the telling of this story but here, director Roger Kay, along with the talented players, have managed to sufficiently and skillfully edit the original source material to create a compelling piece.
Reviewed on 10th May