Review: Rope at the Abbey Theatre in St Albans

Rope at the Abbey Theatre in St Albans [Picture: Nick Clarke]

Rope at the Abbey Theatre in St Albans [Picture: Nick Clarke] - Credit: Archant

Thriller Rope plays at the Abbey Theatre in St Albams this week. Madeleine Burton reviews Company of Ten’s latest production.

Rope at the Abbey Theatre in St Albans [Picture: Nick Clarke]

Rope at the Abbey Theatre in St Albans [Picture: Nick Clarke] - Credit: Archant

Everyone loves a whodunit – the more mysterious the better.

Patrick Hamilton’s Rope, currently being performed by the Company of Ten at the Abbey Theatre in St Albans, is far more of a ‘why did they do it’.

So the tension comes not from working out who the murderers are but whether or not the two killers will get away with it.

And that makes for an interesting reversal and one that is particularly challenging for both actors and directors.

It is all credit to the Company of Ten and its cast of largely young performers that they rise to the challenge so successfully.

Because Rope is a whodunit in reverse, the production requires the audience to get to know the characters and then engage with a play, written in 1929, which is based on the Nietzschean instruction to live dangerously – a philosophical aspect which is treated very lightly.

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Basically Rope follows the downfall of an over-confident young student and his terrified sidekick after the murder which is made more horrific by the fact that friends and relatives of the victim have been invited to a party with the chest containing the body at its centre.

There are two key roles – that of Wyndham Brandon, the student who confidently believes he and his colleague Charles Granillo have committed the perfect crime, and Rupert Cadell, the damaged First World War veteran and poet who is suspicious of them.

Joel Corless gives a confident performance as Brandon whose superiority is such that even as the murder unravels, he tries to pretend that what he and Granillo have done is excusable.

Duncan Kennedy’s Granillo is totally petrified of the repercussions right from the outset – in stark contrast to Kenneth Raglan and Leila Arden – Tom Dean and Mary Harris – whose delightful frothiness shows the lighter side of life.

Taking the key role of Cadell is Company of Ten veteran Russell Vincent and it would be fair to say that a play with a somewhat slow start is lifted immeasurably when he comes on stage.

His wordplay with Brandon is one of the highlights of the production as well as events leading up to the dramatic denouement.

Rope was directed by Nick Strudwick and Terry Prince, both established members of the Company of Ten.

Sadly Nick died soon after rehearsals began and the Company of Ten, only too aware of the loss of one of their most experienced directors, has dedicated the production to him.

It is a fitting tribute.

• Rope runs until this Saturday, March 4, at the Abbey Theatre.

Tickets can be obtained from the box office on 01727 857861 or go to