The Court Theatre, Bernard Street, Addington, Christchurch

11/02/2017 - 04/03/2017

Production Details

Weddings can be murder  

Christchurch audiences are about to be treated to the world premiere season of the new comic-thriller, Ropable at The Court Theatre. This brand new production has been written by The Court’s Artistic Director, Ross Gumbley, who is also directing the show, and Allison Horsley. 

Ropable throws us into the Hitchcock-themed B&B ‘The Macguffin Hotel’, run by the quirky Norma Bates, where Eden Forsyth has arrived to marry (or should that read murder?), the great Montgomery Parker. Her beloved Aunty Prudence is a welcome addition to the wedding party, but the unexpected arrival of her mother, the famous crime novelist C.W. Forsyth, throws a spanner into Eden’s carefully laid out plot. With twists and turns that not even Eden saw coming, what follows is a story so twisted the Master of Suspense would be proud. 

This production boasts a stellar cast; Eilish Moran, who was last seen on The Court’s stage in 2014’s End of the Rainbow where she tackled the challenging role of Judy Garland; Lara Macgregor, who last stunned audiences as Lady Macbeth in The Court’s production of Macbeth; Chelsea McEwan-Millar, who juggled multiple roles in The Streaker and graces TV screens in TV3’s Funny Girls; Kathleen Burns, who commanded The Court’s stage in Educating Rita; and Cameron Rhodes, from feature film Housebound and TV series, The Brokenwood Mysteries

Gumbley and Horsley were thrilled to be able to write a play with specific actors in mind and praises the calibre of phenomenal acting talent available at The Court, which allowed the two writers to create clear and refined characters that the cast would be able to fully embody. 

The pair took on the challenge of writing this play after considering staging the 1929 Patrick Hamilton play, Rope, which is the basis for the well-known 1948 Hitchcock film of the same name. 

“Originally I thought we were just going to put on Rope. We were just going to change all the references to contemporary references and change the genders so that we have two women as the leads. And then we started to work the idea that it could be a comedy,” says Gumbley. 

What started as a simple script ‘tweaking’ was a complete overhaul of the story which Gumbley describes as “so far away from the original that there is only one small similarity now between us and Rope.”

Horsley, who was the dramaturg for Broadway’s Jersey Boys, Dracula and Dr. Zhivago, and involved in the developmental work on Chaplin, wanted a script that gave women strong characters to work with. 

“We wanted to create rich, juicy roles for women and celebrate the complex relationships we have with one another,” says Horsley.

Gumbley has co-written comedic scripts before, however co-writing a crime-genre piece with another person provided an extra dynamic to his normal writing style. This added dimension “certainly challenged” his writing process, but he believes it was the best way to create the most engaging and gripping play for theatregoers. 

“I’ve never written a piece of what is essentially crime fiction. I usually write with a specific start and end point, and how the story gets from A to B just happens along the way. With Ropable it wasn’t like that. There are a lot of plot twists that had to be intricately plotted beforehand which did mean I had a much stronger idea of what absolutely had to happen in each scene before I wrote it.” 

In true Gumbley fashion, he’s drawn to the comedic writing, so, naturally, that comedic edge seeps through every page of the script. Horsley, for one, is sure that audiences will appreciate Gumbley’s comic edge as well as finding a piece of themselves on the stage.

“I hope audiences recognise something of themselves in these characters and that they enjoy the humour of these flawed, complicated people — who already have their own baggage — caught up in a Hitchcockian situation.”

In turn, what has been produced is a black comedic thriller that audiences are sure to be thrilled and excited by.

Ropable debuts at The Court Theatre on 11 February and runs until 4 March. This is one show you don’t want to miss!

#ropable #courttheatre 

11 February – 4 March 2017
Tonkin & Taylor Main Stage at The Court Theatre Show sponsored by Playmarket
Show Times: 
Opening Night: Saturday 11 February, 7.30pm
Post Show Forum: Monday 13 February, 6.30pm
Matinée: Saturday 25 February, 2.00pm
Monday & Thursday: 6.30pm
Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday & Saturday: 7.30pm
Bookings: phone 03 963 0870 or visit
Ticket Prices (Early bird prices available):  
Senior 65yrs+: $46- $54
Adult: $53-$61
Under 25: $34-$42
Child: $24-$32
Community Service Card: $34-$42
Group 20+: $46-$54
Supporter: $44-$52

Show contains coarse language, adult themes and nudity. 

Eilish Moran: Constance Forsyth
Lara Macgregor: Aunty Prudence
Chelsea McEwan-Millar: Eden Forsyth
Cameron Rhodes: Montgomery Parker / Nigel Forsyth
Kathleen Burns: Norma Bates  

Ross Gumbley: Playwright
Allison Horsley: Playwright
Ross Gumbley: Director
Harold Moot: Set Designer
Giles Tanner: Lighting Designer
Sean Hawkins – Sound Designer 
Stephen Robertson: Costume Designer
Wendy Burton: Properties   

Theatre ,

Easy to see virtues of this family plot

Review by Charlie Gates 13th Feb 2017

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. [Actually 1948 – ED, Theatreview]

But as the two worked on the play it slowly moved away from Rope to become its own thing. [More]


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Plot-twisting emphasis on comedy

Review by Lindsay Clark 12th Feb 2017

Plot-twisting emphasis on comedy 

Appetites in thrillers change but you can’t keep a good psychological one down completely, it seems. In this première production, commissioned by The Court, Ross Gumbley and Allison Horsley adapt and considerably rewrite Patrick Hamilton’s classic 1929 play Rope, for a contemporary audience – directed by Gumbley.

It plays right along with the nail biter elements introduced in Alfred Hitchcock’s 1948 film of the same name and furthermore embellishes the original plot line with a plethora of Hitchcock references, so that overall the effect owes less to exploitation of the macabre or suspense than to comedy and hugely colourful characters. The opening night audience greets the new hybrid and its bold authorship warmly. 

However, you would not need to be a film buff to enjoy the reference game. This Hitchcock setting in Oregon, saturated in appropriate memorabilia, is explained by cast in the opening scenes. The MacGuffin bed and breakfast establishment, where it all happens, offers themed accommodation in rooms named for Hitchcock films and its lobby is furnished with memorable props from them.  

Add the frequent growling of a nasty storm and a dysfunctional telephone at the reception desk and we are pretty much in the mood for what follows, from the classically backlit entry of the young woman who confidingly casts us as witnesses to the perfect murder, to the real function of the coffin ‘ice store’ at the back of the stage. 

It is the eve of Eden Forsyth’s wedding, but her mind is fixed on a grisly revenge which will prove that she, rather than her acclaimed crime writer mother, Constance Forsyth, is mistress of cunning plotting. She has been to date a lowly ghost writer, albeit for the famous, much married Montgomery Parker, her mother’s ex and now her flamboyant fiancé … and all this before the action proper has even started.

Mother is not invited to this exclusive affair. Indeed, the only guest is to be her Aunty Prudence, whose spectacular entry steps up the comedy and confirms the hyped mood the rest of the play will foster. Mother does arrive of course, to interrupt another spectacle, involving naughty Monty and the despotic Austrian manageress, Norma Bates (a gender reversal for Hitchcock’s taxidermist).The storm is rising, the dysfunctional relationships are keeping up with it and as the second half gets underway, what had seemed rather slackly drawn out, now gathers momentum and with it, fun for us. 

The twists of plot are enjoyable in the way that a trip on the big dipper or some such beast might be, but it is the impact of the characters which is most significant for me, with a scene between Lara Macgregor as the determinedly cheerful Aunty from Geraldine, and Eilish Moran, a steely, if at this point tipsy, Constance as my favourite. 

As Eden, Chelsea McEwan Millar weaves her way skilfully through the maze of circumstances she faces and Kathleen Burns at full pitch as the flinty Norma adds some sharp turns of her own. Cameron Rhodes handles a dual role comfortably. He is Montgomery Parker of Who’s Your Uncle? fame, as well as Eden’s Kiwi father, Nigel Forsyth, who also turns up on that fateful night. 

With the emphasis on comedy, the creative team has pulled back on any subtlety or thriller implications of a Hitchcock look alike and played up the emphatic. Harold Moot’s set, Stephen Robertson’s costume design, Giles Tanner’s lights and sound from Sean Hawkins all figure strongly in the event, so that the audience leaves well pleased with the latest re-imagining of the tale that fitted a bill way back then, but would hardly serve as an entree now.  


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