Dial 'M' for Murder

18/08/2006

Paul Gardner went to see Dial 'M' for Murder at Nottingham's Theatre Royal


Dial M for Murder graphic - an old bakelite phone (c)

Classical thriller season continues at the theatre royal with Dial M for Murder. An infamous tale made famous by Alfred Hitchcock’s 1953 masterpiece staring Ray Milland and Grace Kelly. For those who have seen Hitchcock’s film, Andrew Fettes production has a lot to live up. Set in the early 1950s, the action takes place in London, in the living room of the marital home of Mr and Mrs Wendice.

At the beginning we are quickly made aware that Sheila Wendice has not been faithful to her husband Tony. Previously she embarked on a steamy affair, with dashing crime writer Max Halliday, only to end it suddenly after she starts receiving anonymous letters blackmailing her for money lest her husband learn of her extra marital affair.

The plot thickens when it is revealed that Tony Wendice was well aware of his wife’s adultery and it was in fact he himself who mailed the letters to his wife. Tony had been plotting revenge against his wife for sometime it transpires and has concocted a devious plan to have her murdered and collect a rather large insurance policy.

Frederick Knotts’ Dial 'M' for Murder first appeared in a 1952 BBC television special. Since then it has gone through many incarnations in the West End, Broadway and Hollywood. It is a timeless masterpiece, which is as shockingly good today as it was 54 years ago.“Dial M” is not a typical run of the mill murder mystery with Angela Lansbury nowhere to be found. What makes the play stand out amongst the crowd is that it is more psychological thriller than crime caper. Jeremy Lloyd Thomas was terrific as Tony Wendice, oozing confidence and smugness as the story progresses, he was able to convincingly pull off playing both the loving husband and devious mastermind.

What was wrong with this production was that comedy was never really able to leave the stage, even in dramatic and serious parts. The attempted murder scene brought an embarrassing loud and lengthy amount of laughter from the audience. Whether intentionally amusing or not it's difficult to come out after watching this performance and not be impressed. The performers on stage were clearly enjoying themselves, which made it all the better for the audience to watch. The set design by Geoff Guilder was terrific and fitted together perfectky with the atmospheric sound provided by David Gilbrook.

Although the famous story did carry it somewhat it was all in all an enjoyable piece of theatre, definitely worth a look.

Dial 'M' for Murder will be showing at the Theatre Royal from until Saturday August 19th.


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