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Theatre review: Rope 
28th-Jan-2010 11:22 pm
tragicomedavatar
I was very excited to see that the Almeida were doing a production of Rope as I remembered that I'd enjoyed the film version, but not much else about it (other than Hitchcock's famous filming gimmick.) Patrick Hamilton claimed his play was not based on the real-life Leopold and Loeb case but nobody seems to believe this. Inspired by a passage in Nietzsche, two students bring a young man round to their flat and murder him. Then they stow his body in a trunk and invite a group of friends (including the victim's father) to dinner, using the trunk as a table.

Roger Michell gives it a gripping production, helped by his following the script in having some scenes happen in very little light. The play doesn't open too promisingly, as Blake Ritson's Brandon has to go all Basil Exposition and spend the first ten minutes telling Granillo (Alex Waldmann) in some detail what they've just done and why. Which is especially clunky since, er, he was there, he helped do it. But once the guests start arriving we're up and running, with the performances nicely balancing comedy and tension. Henry Lloyd-Hughes (probably quite glad not to be playing a bully for a change, as in The Inbetweeeners and Punk Rock) and Phoebe Waller-Bridge are dim, drunken Bright Young Things, Emma Dewhurst is hilarious as the almost-silent Mrs Debenham and Michael Elwyn injects some pathos as the father who doesn't yet know his son's dead. Bertie Carvel steals the show though as Rupert, the aesthete whose ridiculously contrived accent should get annoying but somehow doesn't. He has some of the best moments in the show, whether with his bitchy comments (my favourite being "I honour my father and my mother: Every year on my birthday I send them a letter of congratulation.") or when the bon mots are masking how shrewdly he's collecting clues and is on to what Brandon and Granillo have done.

I liked Mark Thompson's octagon-themed set design, although converting the Almeida to traverse staging has messed with the sightlines a bit - my seat was pretty central but I hardly saw Alex Waldmann 'cause his character spent most of the time cringing by the fire, and that was blocked by a pillar. Don't worry, it's set in the 1920s so it's not like he got his kit off and I missed anything. The setting also means he had his hair slicked back so it wasn't quite as Patty Bouvier as it can be at times. Anyway minor gripes aside this is a great night at the theatre. Perhaps best shown by the fact that, despite the Almeida's brave (and entirely right, in my opinion) decision to run the play for nearly 2 hours with no interval, it didn't feel anything like that long.

Rope by Patrick Hamilton is booking until the 6th of February at the Almeida Theatre.
Comments 
29th-Jan-2010 02:08 am (UTC)
I agree it was a great evening, but I did wonder why Alex didnt throw the Coliseum ticket straight into the fire as soon as he found it. The moment when Bertie Carvel turned around with the ticket pinned to him was electrifying!

At Chichester in 1995 the opening tableau had all three guys naked as if after sex, then the murder was shown and the body thrown naked into the chest. The culprits dressed quite slowly before the servant came in! Starred John Barrowman and Alexis Denisoff, with Anthony Head in the Carvel role. I admit I went to see JB named, but was hugely impressed by the play and production.
29th-Jan-2010 12:42 pm (UTC)
I agree it was a great evening, but I did wonder why Alex didnt throw the Coliseum ticket straight into the fire as soon as he found it. The moment when Bertie Carvel turned around with the ticket pinned to him was electrifying!

Alex Waldmann not doing it I could kinda buy because he was so all over the place I could go along with him missing the obvious solution, it was Blake Ritson not telling him to do it that was harder to swallow. I just chalk it down to being one of those "oh just go with it, it's far fetched but without it the play ends abruptly now" things.

At Chichester in 1995 the opening tableau had all three guys naked as if after sex, then the murder was shown and the body thrown naked into the chest. The culprits dressed quite slowly before the servant came in! Starred John Barrowman and Alexis Denisoff, with Anthony Head in the Carvel role. I admit I went to see JB named, but was hugely impressed by the play and production.

That production seems to have become pretty famous, I've seen people complain that the Almeida version "cut out the nude scene," not quite getting that it wasn't there in the first place. Alexis Denisof must thank his lucky stars he did that show, 5 years' TV work + a wife has to be more than he expected to get at the audition.
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