Dial M for Murder

February 25, 2020 | By | 1 Reply More

★★★★☆  Engaging

King’s Theatre: Mon 24 – Sat 29 Feb
Review by Martin Gray

Classic British play Dial M For Murder is at the King’s all this week before going to Glasgow’s Theatre Royal next, and no one is phoning it in.

He’s a dashing former tennis star. She’s a gorgeous heiress. And they’re so very much in love.

At least to the outside world. In fact, Tony Wendice is plotting to have wife Margot murdered. It’s not like he loves her, he married for money – and learning that she had an affair with crime writer Max Halliday has sent him over the edge.

Tom Chambers. Pic: Manuel Harlan

Fast-talking Tony has been planning her death for a year, and tonight’s the night. He’s blackmailed a blackguard to off Margot, using Max – back on the scene after a sojourn in the States – as his alibi. Tony has everything planned to the last second. What could possibly go wrong?

And if you’ve never seen this stage play, Alfred Hitchcock’s 3D big screen version or the original BBC drama, I won’t spoil it, because there’s a real treat in store as Frederick Knott’s twisty-turny tale unfolds.

Casualty alumnus Tom Chambers employs his killer charm to fine effect as Tony, along with the elegance Strictly fans came to know. When Tony is with others, he’s the affable, perfect husband, but once alone, the Hamlet TV ad theme on the gramophone, he’s just a half-step away from giving us the full Astaire as he dreams of a future as the wealthy widower. Constantly flicking dust off curtains and rearranging cushions, he’s the suburban psycho supreme.

having a ball

Sally Bretton, Lee Mack’s comedy partner in superb sitcom Not Going Out, looks to be having a ball getting her teeth into a dramatic part as Margot, her flair for timing crucial in the central murder scene.

Michael Salami and Sally-Bretton Pic Manuel Harlan

Michael Salami’s Max is so sassy and demonstrative that it’s easy to imagine Margot falling for him – he’s very different from her perfectly distant hubby, and while he’s no longer the Other Man, he yet wants Margot to come clean with Tony.

Salami has a terrific stage partnership with Christopher Harper, who plays Hubbard, the inspector who calls in during the second act to investigate a death. Hubbard is constantly offhand with Max, eliciting enjoyably underplayed reactions from Salami.

Harper as Hubbard is a delight, the policeman who steals the show. Columbo by way of Manchester, he’s not impressed by swanky London types, verbally poking and prodding them as he inches towards the truth.

Sixties suave

Harper also plays Tony’s reluctant hitman, Captain Lesgate, ensuring he has something to do in both acts. The two characters are physically very different, with Hubbard a natty young fella, while the manspreading Lesgate is reminiscent of Boycie from Only Fools and Horses, but Sixties suave.

The cast of Dial M for Murder on David Woodhead’s “cleverly angled set”. Pic Manuel Harlan

Yes, director Anthony Banks’s production updates the original script from the austere Fifties to the starting-to-swing Sixties, with top tunes setting the scene before Act One opens, and clever use of music throughout by sound designers Ben and Max Rincham. At one point in between scenes, the Wendices’ flat becomes a character in itself as a groovy organ number blasts out and blocks of colour flash wildly in a sound and light show.

The only time the sound design gets it wrong is when rising incidental music is employed to evoke tension; it falls flat – usually, it’s best to trust the script and the actors.

highlight

While the characters’ verbal sparring is terrific, a real highlight of the show is a dialogue-free sequence in which Tony, Margot and Max prepare for their Saturday night – the boys are off to a stag do, while Margot readies herself for a trip to the cinema. Once more, lighting and sound is to the fore as they race around David Woodhead’s cleverly angled set, in a splendidly theatrical scene that reflects the passions of the characters.

The climax to the story sees Hubbard pull off his own coup de theatre, setting a trap which the production springs perfectly. The rapturous applause of the audience was utterly deserved.

Running time: Two hours 25 minutes (including one interval)
King’s Theatre, 2 Leven Street EH3 9LQ.
Mon 24 – Sat 29 February 2020
Evenings 7.30pm, Matinees Wed & Sat 2.30pm
Tickets and details: Book here.

Glasgow Theatre Royal, 282 Hope Street, Glasgow G2 3QA
Tue 3 – Sat 7 Mar 2020
Tue – Sat: 7.30pm; Wed/Thurs, Sat: 2.30pm.
Tickets and details: Book here.

Dial M for Murder on tour in 2020:
24 – 29 Feb 2020 Edinburgh
Kings Theatre
0131 529 6000 Book online
3 – 7 Mar 2020 Glasgow
Theatre Royal
0844 871 7647 Book online
10 – 14 Mar 2020 Salisbury
Playhouse
01722 320 333 Book online
17 – 21 Mar 2020 Bromley
Churchill Theatre
08448 717 620 Book online
24 – 28 Mar 2020 Southend on Sea
Palace Theatre
01702 351135 Book online
14 – 18 Apr 2020 Milton Keynes*
Milton Keynes Theatre
08448 717652 Book online
20 – 25 Apr 2020 Birmingham*
The Alexandra Theatre
0844 871 3011 Book online
28 Apr – 2 May 2020 Cardiff*
New Theatre
029 2087 8889 Book online
4 – 9 May 2020 Leicester*
Curve Theatre
01162 423 595 Book online
12 – 16 May 2020 Sheffield*
Lyceum Theatre
0114 249 6000 Book online
19 – 23 May 2020 Liverpool*
Playhouse
0151 709 4776 Book online
25 – 30 May 2020 Mold*
Theatre Clwyd
01352 701521 Book online
2 – 6 Jun 2020 Brighton*
Theatre Royal
0844 871 7650 Book online
9 – 13 Jun 2020 Shrewsbury*
Theatre Severn
01743 281281 Book online
16 – 20 Jun 2020 Salford*
Lowry Theatre
08432 086000 Book online
22 – 27 Jun 2020 Northampton*
Royal & Derngate
01604 624 811 Book online
30 Jun – 4 Jul 2020 Plymouth*
Theatre Royal
01752 230440 Book online
8 – 11 Jul 2020 Leeds*
Grand Theatre
0844 848 2700 Book online
14 – 18 Jul 2020 Wolverhampton*
Grand Theatre
01902 429212 Book online
21 – 25 Jul 2020 Oxford*
Playhouse
01865 305305 Book online
*Sally Bretton not appearing in these performances.

ENDS

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  1. Steven Robertson says:

    It was a really entertaining performance, with great acting from Tom, Sally and all the cast, really enjoyed it.

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