Stage & Screen

Theatre Review - Rope

Theatre Review - Rope

Slider photo by Emily Cooper (Cadell, Granillo and Brandon discussing the “deed”)

Story photo by Emily Cooper (Brandon looks out the window at the ominous evening)

Rain, lots of rain, wind and cold weather has made the Spring of 2019 almost unbearable. There is a bright spot, however, Spring also brings the opening of the Shaw Festival in Niagara-on-the-Lake and a whole new roster of plays, pop-up theatre and other great events.

The Royal George theatre is charming, it was built in 1915 as a movie theatre and a place to entertain the troops from World War 1 prior to being taken over by the Shaw Festival. The George’s opening production is Rope and I had the pleasure of attending it last week to get my first taste of this year’s offerings.

Rope is a play written by Patrick Hamilton, an English author and playwright whose plays, Rope, and Gas Light were made into films: Alfred Hitchcock directed Rope in 1948 and Gaslight, followed in 1944 with an American version.

Rope's opening scene has two frat boys dragging a dead body down the stairs only to deposit it into a large chest in the middle of their living room.   The pair, Brandon and Granillo, (played brilliantly by Kelly Wong and Travis Seeto) proceed to tell the audience that they have just done away with their friend David Kently by killing him. A thrill kill it seems, inspired by lectures they have been attending at University and because they deem themselves intellectually superior, they have justified the deed.

The two have planned to host a dinner party with said chest in the centre of the room and a place where all the food will be served. On the guest list is a former teacher Rupert Cadell played by Michael Therriault, a foppish young man Kenneth Raglan, the dead man’s fiancé, his father and his date.

The guests arrive one by one and as the evening progresses, Mr. Brandon becomes braver and braver, even suggesting that they have a dead body inside the chest. On the other hand, Mr. Granillo becomes increasingly uncomfortable returning to the drink cart over and over again. This only arouses the suspicion of Mr. Cadell, the others seem oblivious.

As the scenes play out and the play progresses, we see the characters develop, but the story seems at a stand still. The invited guests retreat to the upstairs of the home while the two murderers and Cadell banter back and forth. The second half of the play seems to be moving at a much quicker pace than the first half and it seems before long the final scene unfolds, it’s sudden ending unfortunately leaves the audience hanging.  I turned to my guest as the actors moved to the front of the stage for their final bow and said, “is that it’?

I would have liked to have seen these two in handcuffs and perhaps facing a judge to see the murdered man get justice in the end. Calling it a mystery belies the storyline as there is no mystery as to “who done it”, but weakly, “will they get caught”.

The set design is good and captures the essence of the era. The walls that become screens are clever and reveal more of the house when certain lighting is activated. A constant thunderstorm that sets the scene for a murder is believable, this despite the fact there was a real thunder boomer outside (co-incidence, I think so!).   The cast is stellar, and it was wonderful to see Peter Millard (playing Kentley’s father) amongst the cast of young new faces.

As for Rope, the sum of its parts is greater than it’s whole. I’m giving it 3 stars out of 5.

By Jenifer Cass

For more information on the Shaw’s 2019 Season and to purchase tickets visit