Pros: A decent cast doing their best with a weak script and poorly drawn characters.
Cons: Wafer thin plot and a disappointingly small audience robbing the play of any real atmosphere.
One of the joys of pub theatre is the immediate sense of atmosphere gained from a social environment. However, despite the Bread and Roses being a warm and inviting venue with a spacious interior and a beer garden at both the front and back of the pub, it was strangely quiet with only a few customers. It may have just been ‘one of those things’ but initially I thought I’d arrived on the wrong night. We were eventually led upstairs and shown into the performance area where a performer was already on stage, in character, reading a newspaper.
Gallows Rope tells the story of Emile (Nicholas Pimpare), a solitary individual who is unable to communicate and convinced he doesn’t need society anymore. He has a dysfunctional relationship with his landlady, Mrs Rysova (Blazena Kovalikova) who lives across the corridor, and is vexed when she announces that a room is being let to a new tenant, further disturbing his hermit-like existence. The new tenant arrives in the form of the talkative, flirtatious Helena (Irene Salata Georgiu). Emile is, unsurprisingly, infuriated by her inane chatter but his attitude softens as he learns of Helena’s modelling past. Emile is only human and falls for Helena’s charms, much to Mrs Rysova’s annoyance. Emile’s joy is curtailed, however, when Helena’s husband arrives and home truths begin to flow.
Overall the play lacked coherence as the actors struggle to empathise with their characters. The insubstantial plot doesn’t demand the viewer’s attention, neither does it tell us anything valid about life. Emile has withdrawn from society but the narrative fails to explain why, Helena is something of a lost soul but I was none the wiser as to why even when her husband showed up. Mrs Rysova’s relationship with Emile could have been the key to the story but there was no sense of back story.
The cast performed solidly, with Adam Drew a real standout delivering a menacing, controlled performance as Helena’s husband. In many respects, the play was no more than a rough sketch, an outline waiting for colour to be added. The small audience further reduced the dramatic impact of the production and must have made the actors’ task that much greater. Running a touch under sixty minutes, I can only wonder what was left on the drawing board.
Written & Directed by: Mamet Leigh
Producer: KAM Theatre London
Box Office: 020 7723 4400 (Steiner Theatre)
Booking link: http://www.designmynight.com/London/whats-on/thestreets/gallows-rope1
Booking until: This show’s run at the Bread & Roses is now complete. Gallows Rope is playing at Steiner Theatre 23 and 24 September 2016