Review: Rope, Queen’s Theatre Hornchurch

“I have committed passionless – motiveless – faultless – and clueless murder”

Patrick Hamilton’s 1929 play Rope has a special place in my heart for it was the 2010 Almeida production that properly introduced me to the marvel that is Bertie Carvel and Roger Michell taking that theatre into the round – when such things were still a novelty to me – was a properly memorable experience. So the Queen’s Theatre Hornchurch had a job to do and Douglas Rintoul’s expertly-tooled revival has much to commend it.

The story centres on the nefarious antics of two idly rich Oxford undergrads who murder a fellow student just for the hell of it, in pursuit of some Nietzschean ideal. And not just that, they host a dinner party hours after they committed the deed and stuff the corpse into a chest which they then use as a dinner table, even going so far as to invite the victim’s mother. Darkly comic throughout, the play soon winds up into something of a proper thriller as the pair walk a very dangerous line.

George Kemp is marvellously malevolent as Wyndham Brandon, the amoral mastermind behind the scheme and serves as a reminder (if needed) that toxic masculinity sure ain’t a new concept. And James Sutton (a theatre debut for the former Hollyoaks star) partners well with him as accomplice Charles Granillo far less sure about the lengths to which they are going to amuse themselves.

Real standout work comes from Sam Jenkins-Shaw though as one of their guests, a haunted ex-serviceman whose intellectual rigour acts as a spur for Brandon’s gameplaying even as it nudges him closer to being found out. Hamilton’s moralising may come across as a little dated, preachy even, but as time ticks away on Ruari Murchison’s elegant set and under Mark Dymock’s hugely evocative lighting, the tightly wound coils of this expertly constructed thriller remain as poised as ever.

Running time: 2 hours 20 minutes (with interval)
Photos: Mark Sepple
Booking until 3rd March

4 thoughts on “Review: Rope, Queen’s Theatre Hornchurch

  1. I too remember Bertie carvel being spectacular in Rope, but did you see the excellent 1995 Chichester revival with John barrowman, Alexis Denisoff (who were costumeless in the opening scene) and Anthony Head

  2. The reviewers must have seen a different play to me ,there were many periods of silence presumably to build the tension but only served to build the tedium ,the gentleman 2 seats along from me had the right idea he fell asleep but woke just in time for the interval , no criticism of the excellent actors but come on Queens please bring back the rep company.

    1. I agree with Keith Agostini, I found the silences broke whatever atmosphere there was . At first I though they had forgotten their lines! The “comedy” aspect of the play was quite odd and there were few laughs from the audience. The actors did an admirable job considering but it was much too slow in the first half . I love Queens and we come every year but this was definitely not up to par as far
      we were concerned.

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