Rope - directed by Ben Maples
All the advertising material and the front of the programme suggested that the audience should have witnessed the full length production of Rope by Patrick Hamilton. However, we saw a long one act version of the play adapted by Ben & William and as the play is still in copyright I must assume that the company has obtained the necessary permission to make the alterations.
Front of House and Programme
As usual with Phoenix productions the FOH was efficient and courteous. The programme was well produced with notes from both the Chairman & Director, thumb nail sketches of the actors and lists of past productions.
The two centre pages gave us the cast list and a synopsis of the scenes, the latter seemed to have little point as all the scenes ran into each other.
The theatre has the benefit of a very wide stage and with the forestage a good depth also, and full use was made of this, however, the protrusion of the flats which represented a cloakroom reduced the acting on stage right causing it to be cramped when the full cast were on the stage.
Putting the chest down stage right must have restricted the view of the audience sitting stage left especially when the actors were sitting on the settee at the back of the stage, the chest could have been situated on the stage right wall with the drinks table moved onto the forestage and still have been used to place the candelabra and food on.
The costume gave the feeling of a "well to do" circle of friends and relatives there did seem to be a mixture of periods from late 30s to late 80s. However, all the costumes were smart and well cared for.
Sound and Lighting
There was a slight hitch at the beginning of the play with the lights going up and down, but the rest of the show the lighting was very good.
The sound effects had a problem at the end of the play with the police siren or whatever it was, which caused some mirth from the audience, the police siren is relatively new and I felt that it should have been a bell sound from the police car.
Bruce's portrayal of Brandon gave us the very self-assured young man, dominating his young friend, Bruce's character also gave us the sliminess. Bruce built up the character of Brandon into a dominating, arrogant and scheming young man.
This was a very well-conceived characterisation - well done!
The younger member of the conspirators to murder, dominated by Brandon, Liam gave us a young man in torment of his actions, relying on alcohol to sustain him throughout the ordeal! I loved the way he dealt with the uncomfortable situation he found himself in.
The shortness of the text didn't really allow him enough time for the slow transformation from the young inebriated, guilt ridden youth into a shaking nervous wreck. However, Liam controlled the character to achieve the outcome desired.
Just be careful of your hands they tend to take over your body language.
Whilst I felt that the part of Mrs Wilson should have been played by an older lady Jo gave the character the status in the household that controlled the wellbeing of the family and the energy required to dominate the stage when she appeared. This was a very strong performance and proved a supporting character in a play can come out on top!
Very well done.
Alex gave us a well-judged friend and fellow student colleague of Brandon and Philip, having been recently jilted by Janet. The interaction with Janet was excellent giving a real depth to Kenneth.
Gemma gave us a rather vampish Janet dressed in black. We knew the type of character Janet was as soon as she walked on stage and her character developed throughout the production. This was a well judged performance.
Syd manages to portray the real gentleman in every production I've seen him in, his character fitted well to balance the good and evil in the plot. He gave a very well controlled performance.
The part of Anita didn't really give Amelia very much to bite on or time to establish a true character apart from being a pretty young girl. I wold like to see this young lady in a more substantial role in the future.
Helen gave us a "Miss Marple" noticing everything that went on in the plot and exposing the villains in the last scene. Most of this was played rather low key which was fine for most of the play but I did feel that she needed to be a lot stronger when confronting Brandon and Phillip with her discovery of the crime, this was needed to assist in madness of Phillip!
I understand that this was Ben's first production as a director and he managed to keep the pace that the play required. It's a big call not only to re-write a script and reduce the length from a two-hour play to a one-hour version without losing some of the plot but also to direct the play as well.
I must congratulate Ben, he managed to achieve it.
There were some problems with cast positioning, some masking but the major problem was caused by the large box on the front of the stage and the members of the cast sitting on the settee."
Michael Poole-North Essex Theatre Guild