Little Theatre, Leicester
20th January, 2016
There is a line in Patrick Hamilton’s Rope about 11:25 being the hour where London theatre audiences are settling down in the dark ready to watch the third act of stuffy plays whose denouements they already know. It made me think how Hamilton’s play (first seen in 1929) rather subverts the thriller genre. We know who the murderer is and their victim. We know how they did it and we know the location of the body. What’s intriguing though is why they killed this ambitious 20 year old student; it is this idea of the psychology behind murder which Hamilton’s play explores.
Rope recommences The Little Theatre’s season of plays after the Christmas pantomime and this choice of play is great for a winter evening. Co-directors Nick Palmer and Ed Spence’s production is very well-measured. They start the proceedings by plunging the audience into darkness before bringing the lights up on Brandon and Granillo slamming the lid of the chest down when they’ve kept the body. The production (particularly in the last act) also remains tense without being overacted. However, updating the play into the 21st century, for me, wasn’t quite effective although that doesn’t particularly matter as the most important aesthetic in the play is the chest in the centre of the room. It’s like an extra character in the play, no more so effective when the lights are dimming and the bells are chiming eleven o’clock on the chest and the two murderers.
The two leads carry the play incredibly well, finding the balance between Granillo’s panicking and Brandon’s strange coolness. Robert Leeson is impressive as Rupert, particularly delivering the speech about society’s hypocrisy over celebrating war but condemning murder very well. Overall, Rope is a play which intrigues in the way it subverts the single room thriller genre, and it is well delivered in this production.
Rope runs at The Little Theatre, Leicester until Saturday.