DIAL M FOR MURDER: Frederick Knott
Runs: approx 2h 30m, one interval
Birmingham Rep, till 17 May, then onwards
Review: Alexander Ray Edser, 13 May 2014
It still works well – and keeps you guessing.
This is a surprisingly engaging play – its twists and turns (as long as you don’t know the ending in advance) keep you guessing. And there’s much to be celebrated in some traditional popular theatre – it’s live theatre after all, and that’s what we’re all about!
But there’s more to this production than a good yarn. It’s the sense of respect with which the team approach the play. No sending up of a style now gone, but a re-creation of a period piece. It is a social document in three dimensions; a time when ladies put on long dresses to go to the theatre and gentlemen, wore DJs to go to a lads night out.
Knott’s introduction of a writer into the story is also intriguing; Max Halliday’s musings about murder plots enables Knott to raise the tension while deconstructing his play – and even, in yet one more twist, deconstruct his deconstruction. A thriller is a game, and this is a game par excellence.
The small acting team are big on talent. Philip Cairns exuding wholesome charm as the writer, Max Halliday. Kelly Hotten, attractive and warm as Sheila Wendice. Daniel Betts, as her husband Tony is entirely plausible and wonderfully wicked without signalling wickedness to us. Robert Perkins creates a true period character for Captain Lesgate and Christopher Timothy’s Inspector Hubbard is excellent – his no-nonsense, laid back exterior cunningly camouflaging a razor-sharp intellect.
Lucy Bailey directs with great style and subtlety, bringing out the darkness of the story without descending into the melodramatic. All within Mike Britton’s evocative setting.
Sheila Wendice: Kelly Hotten
Max Halliday: Philip Cairns
Tony Wendice: Daniel Betts
Captain Lesgate: Robert Perkins
Inspector Hubbard: Christopher Timothy
Director: Lucy Bailey
Designer: Mike Britton
Lighting Designer: Chris Davey
Sound Designer: Mic Pool
Fight Director: Philip d’Orleans
Casting Director: Marc Frankum