DramaFeaturedNorth West

Rope – Theatr Clwyd, Mold

Reviewer: Gill Lewis

Writer: Patrick Hamilton

Director: Francesca Goodridge

A thought-provoking, and confident reawakening of a classic thriller, which creativity thrives within its theatrical setting.

Made by Theatr Clwyd, this brilliantly crafted production pulls on the dramatic structure of Patrick Hamilton’s narrative, with some creative choices which twist and distorts all of the senses. Kudos to the creative team who right from the start, create a strange tension which is maintained throughout. We’re treated to lots of interesting technical elements brought together to produce a series of carefully choreographed tableaus, cleverly showing time- lapse and plot devices (and whiskey drank), all executed skillfully by the solid acting ensemble of eight.

The opening scene is lit by the strike of a match, and the licks of a real flame dancing downstage, set the mood by illuminating the stage to create eerie shadows and menacing silhouettes. The audience is drawn into the darkness as we bear witness to the stashing of the central, but silent character, the dead body (“rotting bones”), which is squashed into the giant antique chest, mounted centre stage. An old gramophone plays 1920s music, laced with soundscapes which yield undertones of suspense, creating an atmosphere of uncertainty and surprise.

Written and set in 1929, Rope is heavily influenced by the brutal real-life case of 14-year-old Bobby Franks, who was murdered in 1924 by the affluent Chicago teenagers Nathan Leopold and Richard Loeb who had set out to commit the ‘perfect murder’. The thriller also received global recognition following its cinematic adaptation by the ‘Master of Suspense’ Alfred Hitchcock in his 1948 film of the same name.

Set in Mayfair, London, Upper class Oxford students Wyndham Brandon (Jack Hammett) and Charles Granillo (Chirag Benedict Lobo) echo the relationship between Leopold and Loeb who revel in one another’s twisted fantasises and their sense of untouchable grandiose, as we watch them gleefully justify their terrible plan of hosting a dinner party, which is played out on and around the chest, and its sinister contents.

Unsuspecting guests, the friends and family of the deceased, are introduced by the hosts through a broken fourth wall using Dickensian styled narration. The intellectual lens to which the murder is shaped is debated by the conceited young murderers with their philosophical lecturer, Rupert Cadell (Tim Pritchett). Brandon and Granillo’s sense of self-importance is inflated via their bookish observations which is in contrast to the various, amusing banal attempts by the other guests who try their best, without success, to stimulate some interesting dinner party discussions.

Bouncing between realism, classical, escapism and the absurd, director Francesca Goodridge keeps the audiences on its toes, albeit with some moments of wonderment and uncertainty as to what is real or not. The crazy logic surrounding the cruel scheming pleasures of the two young men is reflected in the incomprehensible nature of the action which plays out before us. This sorry tale is literally torn down to pieces.

Its themes of justice, equality, and class have tested the passing of time, and this play, just shy of reaching it centenary, is given a fresh, if unnerving, outing resulting in a successful example of how to create the theatrical version of suspense. Not to be missed.

Runs until 20th July 2024.

The Reviews Hub Score

Thought provoking thriller

Show More
Photo of The Reviews Hub - North West

The Reviews Hub - North West

The North West team is under the editorship of John McRoberts. The Reviews Hub was set up in 2007. Our mission is to provide the most in-depth, nationwide arts coverage online.

Related Articles

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Back to top button
The Reviews Hub