Fans of Alfred Hitchcock will be able to see one of his nailbiting noir classics in its purest form at the Abbey Theatre from next week.

The taut British thriller Rope was written in 1929 by Patrick Hamilton. Hitchcock adapted it for film in 1948, which marked actor James Stewart’s first movie with The Master of Suspense.

A darkly funny whodunnit in reverse, Rope has the distinction of revealing the murderers from the start. The setting is the first floor flat of a house in Mayfair. A young Oxford undergraduate, Wyndham Brandon, persuades his rather weak-minded friend, Charles Granillo, to assist him in the murder of a fellow undergraduate, a perfectly harmless man called Ronald Raglan.

The story is inspired by the real-life exploits of two young men, Leopold and Loeb, who in 1924 attempted to commit the perfect murder.

This is a totally motiveless crime. Brendon’s sole reason for it is to experience, as he puts it, the thrill of “Killing for the sake of killing.” The culprits, who cite the well-known German thinker, Nietzsche, blame their crime on philosophy, and the need to live dangerously.

As the curtain goes up, the pair have placed the body in a wooden chest and are closing the lid. Then, in a macabre twist, Brandon announces he has invited a few friends, including the dead youth’s father, to a party. The chest, with its gruesome contents, is to serve as the supper table.

Duncan Kennedy, who plays Granillo, says: “Although certainly guilty of murder, Granillo is not at heart, a murderer. He is so appalled and affected by his actions, he turns to drink, and grows increasingly unstable.”

Russell Vincent takes on James Stewart’s role as Rupert Cadell, a cynical poet who eventually confronts the two murderers. He picks up on Granillo’s anxiety and becomes suspicious. Russell explains: “As well as the cast on stage, there are two other characters in the play, the atmosphere and the dead body.

“The atmosphere is formed by horrendous weather outside and the increased nervousness inside. Only Brandon and Granillo know about the body, but somehow the chest becomes malevolent to Rupert. He is increasingly suspicious and uncomfortable as the evening wears on.”

Abbey Theatre, Westminster Lodge, Holywell Hill, St Albans, AL1 2DL, February 24 until March 4. Details: 01727 847472