With two productions in the Michaelmas Term, it fell to the Scholars Play to keep flying the flag for Drama in the Lent Term before Summer sees the return of the Summer Musical. The Scholars Play is a showcase for the Drama Scholars from Shell upwards and after Craig Taylor’s One Tiny Million Plays in 2022 and Mark Ravenhill’s Pool (No Water) in 2023, this year saw Drama Grad Georgia Mussellwhite delve back into theatre history and unearth Patrick Hamilton’s 1929 play Rope.

Perhaps better known to audiences thanks to its cinematic adaptation by Alfred Hitchcock, the play is based on a real murder from 1924. Nathan Leopold and Richard Loeb, wealthy university students, murdered 14-year-old Bobby Franks in the hope of demonstrating their intellectual superiority in carrying out the ‘perfect crime’.

As the play reveals, thankfully neither man got away with the crime and both were arrested within ten days of the grisly act. Rope is not a traditional ‘whodunnit’ as the audience knows from the very beginning of the play who committed the murder. Instead, it deals with morality, the value of life and power and is as rich in philosophical musings as it is in intrigue, treachery and deceit.

To make the play suitable for a cast of Bradfield Drama Scholars, Miss Mussellwhite had to make subtle changes to the text. Firstly, to shorten it and secondly to allow for our mostly female cast although this lends itself to a Hitchcockian thriller who was known for his strong leading ladies.

However, she deliberately chose not to lose the essence of the original play by Hamilton and therefore many the older references and the humour remained providing a challenge to the Scholars by requiring them to build their inquiry-based skills to understand every aspect of the play.

As the murderers, Jackson (A) and Jemima (I) were superb. Jackson’s cold detachment was perfect for the sociopathic killer and contrasted well with Jemima’s constant state of panic and anxiety at being discovered. Able support came from Amelie (M), Trixie (J), Tabitha (M), Angeline (J) and Ginny (M). However, particular mention must be made of Sophia (M) who was utterly convincing in her role as Robin Cadell who slowly put the pieces together and unravelled the mystery of just what was in the trunk. Director Georgia Mussellwhite commended the cast for all their hard work, but she also deserves credit for facilitating such an excellent showcase for our class of 2024 Drama Scholars.

Nic Saunders, Head of Drama