Gripping, Humorous and Dark

Jacob reviews Rope for SCENE. 4 stars.

(Image: Tegan Steward)

Griffonage Theatre launched at Theatre@41 in Layerthorpe, performing Patrick Hamilton’s Rope

Their version of Hamilton’s play centred on two heavily-inferred gay (but also quasi-fascist) lovers  in 1929, Wyndham Brandon (Nick Clark) and Charles “Granno” Granillo (Will Osbon), hosting a dinner party in London after strangling off-stage character Ronald Kentley. 

Director Katie Leckey made excellent use of the black box auditorium. The actors made the most out of their proximity to the audience. Set design and props also created a gripping atmosphere. 

The play is written to be performed in three acts (although Griffonage modified it into two) as one continuous scene with actors coming on and off stage.. 

The piercing 1920s soundtrack immersed the audience, as well as the thud of Rupert Cadell’s cane (Jack Mackay). This kept the audience hooked through long interchanges of dialogue which were smoothly performed with countless cues.

Clark quickly got over opening-night-nerves to deliver a chilling performance as Brandon, whose fits of outrage and faux-niceties were perfectly complemented by wonky frames hanging around the set, highlighting the character’s distorted view of reality. 

Clark’s performance, along with the whole cast, epitomised the enthralling focus on characterisation throughout the play, a hallmark of Leckey’s style. 

From the suave era-accurate costumes, to the use of props and the delivery of accentuated dialogue, it was just incredible.

This play was set in the context of the rise of fascism in interwar Europe, but the character of Brandon was inspired by 19th century thinkers like Nietzche and Thomas Carlyle, reminding the audience about the cyclical resurgence of populism, dictatorship, and violence in the present day. 

As Nick Clark chillingly delivered one of Brandon’s coldest lines, “everything comes round in time”. 

This all came to head in the play’s finale, which ended thrillingly on a cliffhanger. When Cadell finally deduces that Brandon and Granno have committed a murder, the audience does not know if the authorities come to Cadell’s rescue or not. 

The audience was left questioning what this says about the world today: the frivolity of the institutions of law and society and the cyclism of fascism. 

The heart of the play was not a whodunnit, but a powerful reminder of humanity’s inescapable trait of plus ça change in history, that once again in the present we are seeing the darkness of humanity. 

Before the show, Leckey told SCENE: “This has been a really long time coming, and I am so proud of the cast and the crew who have put this together, because it’s just quite frankly phenomenal. And I think we’ve put together a really good, thrilling show that’s also somehow funny in spite of being so dark!” 

Griffonage got the best out of Hamilton’s superb play, giving it some freshness. Hopefully, Rope will give the production team a lot of confidence moving forward to branch out and give more local actors a chance to flex their acting muscles in the great theatres of York.