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Posts Tagged ‘Patrick Hamilton’

I can’t think of any other true crime musicals, or any other musicals with just two actors and a musician come to think of it. Stephen Dolginoff’s show is based on the real case of a 1924 kidnap and murder, labelled at the time ‘the crime of the century’, which Patrick Hamilton adapted for his 1939 play Rope, made into a 1948 Alfred Hitchcock film. Later adaptations followed, including three novels, another play and an episode of a TV series. A lot of people seem obsessed with this story!

The pair were law students who liked the excitement committing crimes, mostly arson and robbery, brought them. There was a sexual relationship between them, more of an obsession for Leopold. Their compulsion drove them to escalate the seriousness of their crimes to the kidnap and murder of a young boy. Leopold left his glasses at the crime scene, which led to his arrest. This may have been intentional, because he did a deal with the prosecution, ostensibly so that the pair could spend the rest of their lives together locked up in a cell. The story is told in flashback from Leopold’s parole hearing 34 years later, by which time Loeb had died in prison, during which he confesses in full.

It covers a remarkable amount of ground in just 80 minutes, with a surprising degree of psychological depth. This is helped by outstanding performances from Bart Lambert as Leopold and Jack Reitman as Loeb. Lambert brilliantly conveys Leopold’s obsession with Loeb and Reitman Loeb’s powerful hold over Leopold. Benjamin McQuigg plays the intricate score superbly on solo piano at the side of the stage. In such a small space, it was an intimate storytelling experience, often chilling, and I was enthralled.

This is another transfer from Manchester’s Hope Mill Theatre, a pioneering theatre, particularly with musicals. Director Matthew Parker and designer Rachael Ryan have adapted it for the Jermyn Theatre space, which it fits like a glove. As much as I enjoyed the UK premiere in 2011, this production improved on it significantly.

This theatre, one of the few offering some socially distanced performances for those not yet ready to take the full house plunge, is fast becoming a favourite of mine, one of the most welcoming in London. Check this out.

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I haven’t read any books by Patrick Hamilton, whose novel this is based on, though I have seen his plays Gaslight and Rope, plus some TV and film adaptations of his work. Nicholas Wright has adapted this late novel for the stage and I found it a bit of an odd concoction.

Set in a boarding house in Berkshire during the Second World War, the residents are mostly long-term, some forced to find alternative accomodation to their bombed London homes. It’s mostly retired folk, but thirty-something Miss Roach, who works for a publisher, is amongst them. She frequents the local pub, where she meets a black American GI, Lieutenant Pike, and a German doctor’s clerk, Vicki Kugelman. The latter ends up moving into the boarding house, which the Lieutenant visits to take dinner with Miss Roach.

There’s a lot of alcohol involved and the triangular relationship of Roach, Pike and Kugelmann becomes a bit of a roller-coaster. After a tragic incident, all three go their separate ways, leaving the boarding house, two ending up not too happily reunited in London. There are a lot of scenes, which I felt were detrimental to both characters development and flow, and some of the behaviour on display seemed incongruous. The biggest flaw for me was the ending, leaving you hanging in mid-air, though it is what the title says – they are slaves to solitude.

It’s hard to fault the production, though on the last day of previews there were still a few glitches to iron out. The scene changes are themselves excellent, transforming from boarding house to pub and back quickly and seamlessly, though the change to the one outdoor scene worked less well for those of us in the front stalls. There are some lovely performances, with the romantic trio, played by Fenella Woolgar, Daon Broni and Lucy Cohu, all excellent. Clive Francis’ cameo as the somewhat lecherous mysoginist racist Thwaites is a delight (!), and there are smaller but important contributions from Richard Tate and Tom Milligan.

I left the theatre not fully satisfied, concluding that it perhaps wasn’t really worth adapting. Mind you, it did come at the end of a week which included three crackers – Albion, Young Marx and Beginning.

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Well, it did. The true story of a couple of young psychopaths who kill a boy for thrills may not seem promising or appropriate material for a chamber musical, but it actually works – and it tells the story with more psychological depth than Patrick Hamilton’s play ‘Rope’ on the same subject, recently revived at the Almeida.

These two young men started getting their kicks from arson and robbery, but it wasn’t long before they concocted the ultimate crime of murder. The show tells the story as flashback from Leopold’s parole board hearing 34 years after imprisonment; this is a very clever idea. The attraction of Loeb to Leopold is clear from the outset but whether it is reciprocated is ambiguous, which adds to the intrigue of the story. Leopold’s true motivation isn’t revealed until the end.

Writer Stephen Dolginoff handles the psychological complexity very well, with the help of his own excellent score and lyrics. Simply but effectively staged by Guy Retalllack, in close proximity the two actors – Jye Frasca and George Maguire – convey all the manic intensity of their characters and their vocal performances are outstanding; their experience in musicals shows and pays off. Musical Director David Keefe plays the dense score on piano brilliantly.

With so much theatre-going, it’s amazing that I still manage to visit new venues like Tristan Bates Theatre; I think they need a publicist (or a better one, if they have one!) as this excellent show – which has taken a long time to come here after 50 productions in 4 other countries – hasn’t had anywhere as much publicity as it deserves. You have 2.5 more weeks to see what I mean…..

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