Wednesday, 4 November 2009

Dial M For Murder - Richmond Theatre

Dial M for Murder
Writer: Frederick Knott
Director: Lucy Bailey
Reviewer: James Higgins

Frederick Knott wrote the original stage play in 1952 and two years later also wrote the screenplay for Warner Brothers. Alfred Hitchcock directed the famous film version starring Ray Milland and Grace Kelly. A recent revival of a much loved but slightly dated old title this new production is presented by Fiery Angel in association with The West Yorkshire Playhouse.

After the two Co-Producers brought us a playful The 39 Steps with much theatrical tomfoolery last year, this new play brings no laughs just spine chilling reality. Director Lucy Bailey's authentic new adaptation is of Knott's original darkly gripping thriller not the more well known film version, though there are clearly a couple of nods to Hitchcock in parts of the play. The set (designed by Mike Britton) is authentic but with a modern angle, as the room within the Maida Vale flat rotates to allow the audience a unique goldfish bowl take on the action without detracting from it. The lighting (Chris Davey) is clever too and used creatively to highlight the characters that are outside the main room. Over the top of all this Mic Pool (Sound Designer) floats a cool dark sound track of Jazz, with tingling suspense and chill, to stunning effect.

Tony Wendice (Richard Littern) is the jealous ex Tennis professional who suspects his wealthy wife Sheila (Aislín McGucklin) of having an affair and is planning a dark deed that will see him inherit all her cash. We hear how his meticulous plans, thought through to the last detail will be skillfully executed with no room for even the slightest error. Even the best laid plans can fail however, leading to shocking improvisation and skulduggery of the highest order. Max Halliday (Nick Fletcher) is Sheila's close companion who Tony pretends to befriend and Captain Lesgate (Daniel Hill) an old acquaintance with a big shiny car for sale. Des McAleer is very convincing as wise Inspector Hubbard who is much underestimated, Aislín McGucklin is compelling as the emotional wife that is left at wits end but it is Richard Littern who impresses most, superb as the polite calm and calculating schemer, bringing great charisma and a touch of evil to the role.

Dial M for Murder is an unusual beast, and not remotely your average whodunit, especially as we know the villain from the start and what he has in store for his victim. What it does have is clever twists and turns that keep the audience guessing until the end. This is not a contemporary adaptation but a play that is dated and stuck firmly in the 1950's, which is all part of its charm. If you wish to be transported back in time for a tale of intrigue and chilling suspense then pick up the dusty old phone and dial M for Murder.

Photos: Manuel Harlan
Runs until 7th November
frontpage hit counter