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  • Rope
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4.5 out of 5 stars
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TOP 1000 REVIEWERon 3 March 2016
“Rope” is the 1929 play which made Patrick Hamilton’s name and, along with another play, Gas Light, earned him the wealth with which he slowly drank himself to death over the next few decades.

Hamilton always denied that the famous Leopold and Loeb case in America in 1924 in which two teenagers from prominent Chicago families committed an apparently motiveless murder on a 14-year-old boy, was the inspiration for Rope. The similarities between his play, and the Leopold and Loeb case, make his claim lack credibility.

Patrick Hamilton’s Rope concerns two upper class Oxford students who, under the malign influence of Nietzsche and his theories of the Ubermensch, kill a fellow undergraduate for the “fun of the thing”. Wyndham Brandon persuades his weak minded friend, Charles Granillo, to assist him in the murder of Ronald Raglan, a harmless fellow undergraduate. They place the body in a wooden chest, and to add spice to their crime, invite some carefully chosen acquaintances, including the dead man's father, to a dinner party, the chest with its gruesome contents serving as the dinner table.

Almost 90 years on from its initial theatrical success, the play still packs a punch. Hamilton slowly and cleverly ratchets up the tension as the three lead characters react in a very different, but all in a consistently compelling, way to the drama. The tension is also combined with well observed social comedy. In short, it’s wonderful - and short.

By a happy coincidence, I also had the pleasure of listening to a BBC Radio version of the play straight after reading it. This version stars the late, great Alan Rickman playing Rupert Cadell (the role played by James Stewart in the Hitchcock film) as a camp, cold, intellectual aesthete, and a survivor of the trenches with a tin leg. It is he who gives this cruel and brilliant play the merest hint of decency and compassion. If you can access BBC iPlayer you can listen to the play on it until 22nd March 2016.
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on 5 September 2013
This was made into a film - many years ago - with James Stewart starring in it. When I found myself being more interested in the set rather than the story, I knew I had disengaged. I bought the script hoping to find more to like.

The basic plot is quite promising. In a Mayfair apartment, two young Oxford students kill another male student to experience the thrill of 'living dangerously'. They stuff the body into a large chest, and invite a select group of people round to join them for supper. Within this select group are the father and girlfriend of the dead boy. The buffet supper is laid out on top of the large chest - the dead boy's makeshift coffin. The two killers are sure they are going to get away with murder until another one of their guests, a cynic and poet, whom they mistakenly believe would understand their motive for killing, becomes suspicious.

It didn't quite work for me because everything is built around the tension caused by the 'will they or won't they get away with it?' dialogue. In 1929, when the piece was written, had they been found out, they would have been hanged, of course. But it was this very dialogue that began to irritate rather than terrify. The characters - apart from the cynical poet - had little depth - and I didn't care enough about either of the murderous students, and still less for the poor dead guy in the chest.

The three stars are for the promising plot-line and the early dialogue.
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on 10 July 2013
Although set in 1929, there is something timeless about Rope. It is a dark and mesemirising tale of two young undergraduates who murder a third and place in his body in a large chest. The play opens just as they finish placing his body in the box. We as an audience are instantly aware of the murder they have just perpetrated. The interest in the play lies in their apparent self justification for what they have done. They proceed to give a dinner party and serve the meal on the chest containing the corpse, The guests include the dead boy's fathetr and almost mute aunt. Their former house tutor who has been wounded in the war becomes suspiscious as the evening goes on.
This is a play full of tension, the dynamic between the the three male leads is electric and the the writing is excellent. The dark side of privilege and the class structure that underpinned the society of 1929 and indeed could be said to still do so now, is inherently realised. The character of Rupert Cadell is a well drawn and he must be joy for an actor to play. The aftermath of the Great War and its effect on the society of the roaring twenties is pervasve.
Hitchcock made a film of this play transferring it to New York and altering many characters, perhaps that was needed in a cinematic format, but as a play this is superb.
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on 10 June 2015
Superb film - inspired me to buy the book - and it's just as good!
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on 11 May 2015
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on 12 February 2016
Pretty good play. Has a really good monologue at the end of it. I reccomended it to AS students who are assessed on a monologue.
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on 2 August 2015
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