The adaptation of theatre into film has become somewhat of a commonality. There is an argument that it gives a piece of theatre longevity, as it can live beyond the moments it would exist for on stage. Such adaptations can reach significantly wider audiences and hold a solid place in anyone’s cinematic library. But the real magic, the real grit and life of the piece is all the more special when such a piece of theatre is revived on stage almost ninety years after it was originally written.
Patrick Hamilton’s Rope (1929), made a household tale by Alfred Hitchcock’s gripping 1948 film noir, will be staged at the Queen’s Theatre Hornchurch later this month. One of the most captivating thrillers of its time and based on the real-life case of Leopold and Loeb (1924), Rope is sure to captivate audiences and prompt us to yearn even more for an increase of plays of this genre in theatre. With the successful rise of horror theatre such as The Woman In Black, it is no surprise that other genres that embody suspense and tension are in close proximity to taking theatres by storm.
This particular production has a stellar line-up of new and established names, including Janet Amsden and George Kemp, taking to the stage to bring this ‘perfect murder’ to life. James Sutton, best-known for his role as John Paul McQueen in Hollyoaks will play Charles Granillo, one of the wealthy college twosome who together murder their fellow student in the name of ‘intellectual challenge’.
Sutton was drawn to Rope for its “excellence” and the compelling concept of a “reverse murder mystery”. He has been “keen to get back into theatre” having spent much of his recent years acting on screen. This “amazing story and… intense piece of work” excited Sutton and is sure to have a similar influence on theatre goers. It also presents the opportunity for audiences to see Sutton in a very different light. As Charles Granillo, he’ll transform into a “nasty Oxford student – you couldn’t get much further away from gay teacher, John Paul”. This will certainly present an opportunity for us to see the spectrum of Sutton’s acting talents and, it may potentially bring a new audience into the theatre.
Having had leading roles in two primetime British soaps, Sutton’s presence in Rope is likely to get on the radar of avid soap fans up and down the country. The cross pollination of theatre and soap audiences is something that often goes unmentioned, but serial drama and stage drama have more in common than we may think at first glance. Telling people’s stories that captivate millions on their sofas and sharing a world live to one group in one moment, both have a lasting effect on an audience. Sutton hopes that this production will bring in soap lovers and a younger audience and in doing so, it really will be something “quite special”.
Sutton describes this modern version of Rope as “intimate and intense… the audience will be completely drawn in and won’t be able to take a breath for the first twenty minutes”. And this is exactly what one could hope theatre can be. Sitting on the edge of your seat and so close to the edge that every action and every word means nothing and everything at the same time. Alfred Hitchcock’s film version of this classic was certainly gripping and so the idea of experiencing that level of intensity live is sure to engage both new and seasoned theatre goers. Rope is a case of “hosting a party with a dead body in the middle of the room” – there’ll be plenty of sweat, deception and clues to go around.