- The Forge
By Ross Gumbley & Allison Horsley
Featuring Lara Macgregor & Eilish Moran
Weddings can be murder…
Prudence has come to the Hitchcock-themed MacGuffin Hotel for her niece Eden’s wedding to Montgomery Parker (yes, the Montgomery Parker). But when Eden’s disapproving mother Constance arrives, everyone finds themselves embroiled in a case of dangerous lies, suspicion and murder!
Cut off by a landslide, run by an amorous Austrian and filled with family secrets and homicidal tendencies, the MacGuffin is about to become home for a twisted story that even the Master of Suspense couldn’t have imagined…
Check your rear window for psychos and dial M for murder before someone gets vertigo in this comedy-thriller to die for!
Early Bird ticket prices are available for Mon-Thu and matinee performances in the first two weeks of the season.
Ropable Theatre Review
This intriguing and unusual play is held together by some great jokes, an outstanding cast and an intricate cascade of twists and turns.
Ropable is a new play written by Court Theatre artistic director Ross Gumbley and dramaturge Allison Horsley. It began life as a modern adaption of the 1920s play Rope, which was made into a film by Alfred Hitchcock in the 1950s.
But as the two worked on the play it slowly moved away from Rope to become its own thing. The final product is an unusual mash up Hitchcock’s arch-plotting in films like Psycho and Vertigo, the dark humour of a play like Arsenic and Old Lace, and a sensibility that favours broad, elevated caricature and a hint of farce over realism.
Those influences are peppered with some sharp and often brilliantly profane jokes to create a curious final product.
There is also a touch of the Parker-Hulme case about the plot with its real-life murder feeding into crime fiction.
The action takes place on a dark and stormy night at the MacGuffin Hotel, a faded Hitchcock-themed bed and breakfast with no cellphone coverage or wi-fi. Eden Forsyth (Chelsea McEwan-Millar) has come to the hotel to marry Montgomery Parker (Cameron Rhodes), a fallen television star and total rotter who was once married to Eden’s mother.
But the wedding plans go awry when Eden’s mother, crime writer Constance Forsyth (Eilish Moran), arrives and a complicated real-life murder plot unfolds between the thunder claps.
The amazing cast bring these characters to vivid life.
Lara McGregor is superb as the slightly eccentric Aunty Prudence, while Moran is equally good as the smart, but slightly distant crime writer. The always excellent Kathleen Burns gets most of the laughs as hotel owner and stereotypical Austrian Norma Bates. Rhodes as the obnoxious Parker is also good, but feels a little miscast. He seems too likeable to play such a nasty creep. There is a kindness to his face that shines through, despite the multiple atrocities committed by his character. He is far better suited for his second role of the night as Eden Forsyth’s kindly father.
McEwan-Millar as Eden Forsyth also excels as the centre of the play, with characters, twists and motivations moving carefully around her.
The intricate plot whirrs like clockwork, but the twists feel motivated and organic rather than gratuitous. The character’s actions also feel carefully motivated so they make emotional sense and keep the narrative on track as it accelerates in the second-half.
This play’s mash up of influences makes for a slightly unusual final product, but there are enough laughs to get it over the line, the twists always stay one step ahead of the audience and the consistently strong cast put in some amazing performances.
Reviewed by Charlie Gates for The Press
Dream cast in absolute crowd-pleaser premier production of Ropable
It’s always exciting to be at the premier of a new production, but for at company like the Court Theatre, presenting a commissioned work has an element of risk.
The Court Theatre must balance the desire to present original creative work with generating enough ticket sales to keep our only professional theatre operating. Happily,
Ropable is an absolute crowd pleaser, a successful blend of well known murder mystery conventions and fresh ideas.
Ropable is ostensibly a contemporary adaptation of Patrick Hamilton’s 1929 play Rope and Hitchcock’s 1948 film of the same name. Co-writers Ross Gumbley and Alison Horsley pile on references to Hitchcock’s works, setting the action in The MacGuffin Hotel, a Hitchcock themed hotel with rooms such as the Vertigo suite (“At the top of the stairs. Don’t get dizzy”), managed by Norma Bates.
This gender twisting is the major shift away from the Hitchcock, whose most famous female roles are helpless screaming victims. Gumbley and Horsley can be commended for creating a cast of strong women, all of whom play integral parts in the plot development.
This is a dream cast, helmed by two matriarchs of New Zealand theatre, alongside two young stars who are more than capable of holding their own in such illustrious company, supported by one versatile man in dual roles.
Setting the scene with a suitably sinister shadowed silhouette advancing down the stairs, the delightful Chelsea McEwan Millar begins by confiding in the audience that she, Eden Forsyth, intends to commit the perfect murder.
It is wonderful to see this beautiful young actress given a intelligent, multi-layered role to play, and McEwan Millar meets the challenges she is given with a confident assured performance.
Kathleen Burns’ heavily accented Norma Bates could have been a one note stock character, but in the hands of two talented writers and an extremely able actor, she reveals herself to be so much more than that.
As America’s favourite uncle Monty Parker, driven by testosterone and illicit substances, Cameron Rhodes is a suitably creepy, before proving his acting range in a very different guise as Eden’s father.
There are two stars in this stellar cast who shine brighter than the rest, however. Eilish Moran and Lara MacGregor as the icy crime writer Constance Forsyth and the loveable flake Aunty Pru respectively are an absolute dream team.
Their wealth of experience is evident in their brilliantly nuanced performances. These women have gone to the top of the list of women I would like to have a Baileys on ice with (as long as the knives are well hidden).
The heavy handed helping of film noir tropes in the fast moving first half provide the audience with some hearty laughs, but also aid in concealing the subtle twists and turns of the second half.
By establishing a number of generic conventions early on, Gumbley and Horsley are able to surprise the audience with contemporary twists and hidden murder mystery tropes to race towards a satisfying denouement.
This Hitchcockian homage with a feminist slant is an absolute triumph.
The talented cast brings life to strong women characters, expertly managing the sinister drama as competently as the quick comedic wit.
The opening night audience clearly enjoyed Ropable’s debut. Hopefully they encourage others to hurry to the Court Theatre, as this is a show that deserves to sell out.
Reviewed by Ruth Agnew for What’s Up Christchurch
“Ropable,” by Ross Gumbley and Allison Horsley, directed by Ross Gumbley, The Court Theatre.
This locally written play is a delightful romp through murder and mayhem, bound to raise a lot of chuckles and laughs from the antics of an accomplished cast.
There is the old stalwart of an impending wedding around which the characters perform, as a frantic mum tries to dissuade her daughter from entering the holy state with a once famous stud. And of course the stud has once been the husband of mum. Set in a notorious hotel which has more than just a nod towards Alfred Hitchcock, with a main character named Norma Bates.
The play is ably directed by Ross Gumbley and the cast seem to be enjoying themselves, especially Kathleen Burns playing an uptight Austrian with an outrageous accent, as the control freak hotel manager. The 1948 Hitchcock classic film “Rope” is the springboard for this black comedy, with the main characters having their genders in the film changed for the play. Lara Macgregor as dotty Aunty Prudence is a delight, while the considerable experience of Cameron Rhodes is put to full use as he plays the double roles of Montgomery Parker and Nigel Forsyth. His Viagra charged pursuit of his bride to be is a hoot.
Gumbley and Horsley have the privilege of being able to write parts for actors they know and this luxury pays dividends big time. There are many amusing scenes, especially the one where two women try to lift their victim’s body into a coffin. Once again The Court is able to draw on the considerable professionalism of both cast and crew. The naturalistic set of the hotel (complete with the Vertigo room) is well constructed and made full use of by this talented cast. Most definitely a fun night for both actors and audience. Certainly worth a visit.
Reviewed by Barry Southam for The Christchurch Star
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Bernard St, Addington, Christchurch . Off the Hagley Park end of Lincoln Road in Addington.
Limited free on-site parking is available during performances. There is also ample street parking nearby for evening performances. Please allow plenty of time if parking is a priority.
Box Office: Phone 963 0870
• Monday-Thursday: 9am-8.15pm
• Friday: 9am-10.30pm
• Saturday: 10am-10.30pm
• Sunday: CLOSED
• Door sales available unless sold out. Check website for availability.
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• Tuesday & Wednesday: 6.30pm – 10:30pm
• Friday & Saturday: 6.30pm – 10:30pm
Bar Opening Hours:
• Monday & Thursday: 5.30pm – 9:30pm
• Tuesday & Wednesday: 6.30pm – 10:30pm
• Friday & Saturday: 6.30pm – 12:45am
• Latecomers may not be admitted to performances.
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Hearing Loop available, wheelchair access available throughout theatre and disabled parking by main entrance.
Q: Ross, it’s been a while since we’ve had one of your plays on at The Court. Will Ropable be similar to your others which are light-hearted Kiwi comedies?
RG: My early plays were not so much light-hearted as ‘robust’ comedies – robust being another word for ‘in-your-face’. The last play of mine The Court staged was The Thirty-Nine Steps. This play follows very much in that tradition – a comedic rendering of an existing classic – ooh, er, I sound like a writer.
AH: And several of his other plays were written with an Alison who spelled her name with one “L”, whereas mine has two.
RG: That’s right, for many years I wrote with Alison Quigan – she of one “l”. When it comes to literary collaborators I would appear to be working my way through the phone book.
Q: What was your inspiration in writing Ropable?
AH: It all started when Ross asked me to have a read of a 1929 play called Rope by Patrick Hamilton, which is the basis for the well-known 1948 Hitchcock film of the same name.
RG: It’s basically a psychological thriller about two young, privileged Englishmen who murder a classmate in a thrill-kill, then invite the dead boy’s family round for a dinner party, served unbeknownst to them, atop the trunk containing the body. Macabre stuff, but I asked Allison to read the script to see if The Court should consider producing it on the main stage.
AH: Nope. The play felt dated to me. I love how dark it is and the nonchalance with which the main characters treat murder—
RG: (interrupting) She doesn’t speak for me on this. Horsley, YOU love the nonchalance of murder, because you’re a Texan and therefore of questionable moral character.
AH: Like you’re one to talk – they’re still cleaning the stage after Macbeth. (With a Kiwi accent) “Can we get more blood?” Canterbury’s probably sold out of red food colouring thanks to you.
RG: Cochineal, please. It’s best if we sound knowledgeable here.
AH: (pause) Anyway, we started thinking it would be interesting to write a different play, making a big departure from Rope, in which two women were killers instead of men. Female killers! We wanted something that Christchurch has never seen before—
Q: You haven’t seen Heavenly Creatures?
AH: It’s on my list.
Q: So getting back on track, Ropable is a hard-hitting drama about two cold-hearted female killers?
RG: (frustrated) No!
AH: (confused) No! Once we agreed that we wanted our killers to be women, and maybe women north of 40 who “ought to know better” our discussions kept veering into comedy. Perhaps that’s not shocking, given Ross’ previous comedic writing experience—
RG: Not to mention my experience with women over forty.
AH: Usually they’re the ones laughing.
Q: Getting back to Ropable… who do these women want to kill and why?
AH: And what’s the occasion that brings everyone together in the first place?
RG: It didn’t take us long before we decided we wanted it to be a murder at a wedding. It’s an occasion on which emotions are running high and societal expectations of behaviour are fairly rigid, which is a rich recipe for comedy.
AH: And weddings call for formal dress, and there are few things funnier than people dressed up, behaving badly. We started brainstorming from there: maybe it’s the mother of the bride and her best friend? Or the bride is their own age and a friend of theirs? Maybe they decide to kill the groom because they have a good reason to?
RG: We wanted to give a huge nod to Rope and to Hitchcock, so we came up with the title Ropable and decided the venue hosting the wedding should be Hitchcock-themed. The McGuffin Hotel. They’re getting Hitched.
AH: Stop it. Hitchcock is the gold standard when it comes to psychological thrillers and murder, so we felt it would be even funnier to set our characters, two relatively ordinary women, against a Hitchcock backdrop.
Q: I see you’ve cast actors Lara Macgregor and Eilish Moran in the lead roles. Have they influenced your writing of these two characters?
RG: We’re essentially writing these parts for Lara and Eilish. They’re both such experienced actors, not to mention versatile comedians. Paired together, they’re even more brilliant.
AH: It raised the bar for us as writers because these two women invite such real and intriguing characters
to be created for them, with them.
RG: Did someone say ‘bar’?