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Dial M for Murder

Blackmail, adultery and 'attempted' murder - all the key ingredients for a good thriller!

It’s easy to be impressed by the high energy and glamour of big stage productions and I have to admit it took me a while to adjust to the simple one scene set and laid bare acting in Frederick Knott’s Dial M for Murder. It required a shift in concentration to follow this dialogue heavy play, so the first five minutes were a little hard going but the story soon had me gripped.

A scorned husband (Tom Chambers) plans his wife’s (Sally Bretton) murder – blackmail, adultery and ‘attempted’ murder – all the key ingredients for a good thriller. Of course, things don’t go to plan and we’re invited to follow the twists and turns as the lies escalate and the story becomes more farsical.

First broadcast in 1952, Dial M for Murder has become one of the great theatrical successes of both London and Broadway but most people will know it from Alfred Hitchcock’s 1954 film. This production has been updated to the 1970’s and my first reaction was ‘crikey it looks a bit like my front room’ – that’s fashion coming full circle.

I’d liken it to watching a much loved sitcom from your childhood. Sadly our aesthetic needs are so much more these days which could make the appeal of this production a little generational. No smoke and mirrors here – the actors are vulnerable and while I admire this, it does leave the acting open to close scrutiny and I felt the first scene was a little clumsy and over acted.

Tom Chambers led the four person cast and played the charming yet slightly machiavellian husband brilliantly and injected some timely humour into the sinister plot. The second half was fast paced and I particularly enjoyed the police inspector character played by Christopher Harper for the contrasting northern commentary.

The staging was simple – a front room in a Maida Vale flat but clever use of lighting helped the audience to visualise the unseen kitchen/bedroom/garden and took us nicely between night and day. Without spoiling the plot, I thought the rain on the windows was incredibly effective.

This production is definitely for fans of Agatha Christie style thrillers combined with the serious play format. Those wanting light theatrical relief or perhaps a bit more jazz, check out the upcoming productions of Made in Dagenham and Everybody’s Talking About Jamie!

Book tickets: £14 – £33.50 on until Sat 25th January



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