HIGH society can be frightfully dull without a little murder.
In Patrick Hamilton’s 1929 thriller, aristocratic ennui reaches its cold-blooded peak as two friends strangle a fellow student and hide his body in a chest in their Mayfair flat to add “piquancy” to a social engagement.
Hamilton’s original version, staged here in the round, has dated in terms of dramatic tension but retains its power as a study of murder’s intricate mechanisms.This production begins in darkness with Wyndham Brandon and Charles Granillo hiding the body – the limp end-product of an experiment in Nietzschean amorality. The guests will arrive in 15 minutes.Blake Ritson sparkles as Brandon, convinced of his intellectual superiority, while Alex Waldmann’s Granillo over-eggs the nervous sidekick role. The star turn, however, is Rupert Cadell (Bertie Carvel), a bundle of camp eccentricities: an arch, lisping poet with a sharp tongue and hair shocked vertical with pomade. He is unrecognisable from James Stewart in the film adaptation.
Like Brandon, he is an intellectual snob, arguing for the acceptability of murder to amuse himself at dinner parties. His shift from sophist to detective as the truth dawns is masterful. He watches the proceedings with grim amusement, and through his eyes we see Brandon and Granillo as they really are: spoilt boys who believe they are above the law, who think they can get away with murder and the hangman’s rope that follows it.
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