Going into this show, I had my reservations. Taking
An entertaining show for fans of murder and classic thrillers.
Rope tells the tale of two murders who’ve recently killed a school boy for kicks and decide to up the stakes by placing his body in a trunk and inviting his relatives and friends to dine with them, trunk still in the room. This production modernises the script and cleverly adapts the plot to fit a promenade performance; instead of dinner, the murderers organise a sponsored walk around the city and invite the murdered boys friend, sister and an old school mate to accompany them to push the trunk along.
As thrillers go, the show does very well, the acting is good across the board, and each cast member inhabits their role with confidence - all of this helping to ratchet up the tension. Indeed, many scenes will leave you sitting on the edge of your seat, which always a good sign in any show of this kind. The promenade aspect works rather well for the most part, with locations that are appropriate and accommodating for even large audiences, and adds a degree of realism to the performances that makes scenes all the more enjoyable and - dare I say it - real. You feel a lot more connected to two people discussing their cover up of a murder when you’re all standing around them in a public park where anyone could walk by.
The script itself is competent for what it wants to achieve, though its strength is in the overall structure rather than the details. The plot to Rope has always been clever; the identity of the killers is never in doubt for the audience and the main conflict is watching to see if the other characters can catch up with us. This same intelligence, however, doesn’t stretch to the characters. Rope’s strong point was never its ground-breaking villains and this production is no exception.
The motivations for the death itself are fairly flimsy and the main murderer is written as a boring sociopath who kills because he enjoys it. It’s entertaining, but not particularly interesting. In this version, however, it also extends to the other characters. None of them are particularly likeable or interesting and they can come off as fairly two-dimensional on occasion. Furthermore the show’s own promenade nature causes problems, there is quite a bit of distance between some of the venues, which leads to extended periods of walking around the city, often killing the tense mood between scenes that a thriller like Rope feeds on. It also jacks up the running time considerably and makes the experience longer than it really needs to be.
In spite of this, I can still recommend Rope as an intriguing experiment you should try and see. It does its task of transforming the story into a credible promenade performance well and provides an entertaining show for fans of murder and classic thrillers.