Kelly Hotten as Sheila Wendice
Kelly Hotten as Sheila Wendice

Atmospheric, claustrophobic ... but what a load of glitches; maybe the worst being that while dialling anything, the ring tone can also be heard. What with that, furniture which seems to have a mind of its own, or rather, can't make up its mind, plus a red gauzy curtain doing the rounds, and behind which people are apparently concealing themselves, it's all quite distracting.

And you need to concentrate to follow all the ins and outs of the plot, even if it's more tell than show: boy loves girl, boy loses girl, boy cooks up cunning plot to have girl killed.

That's when it gets really messy. The key scene is so protracted, it had the audience giggling, and does not leave anything to the imagination with the volume on high to capture every bit of puffing and panting. A wee bit tricky when the murder victim is pronounced dead but can still be heard breathing.

However, the show is redeemed by some splendid moments, notably the opening of the Second Act and the conclusion, and also a gallant cast. They have little option but play it rather over the top, and again, some laughs come where they really shouldn't.

Philip Cairns relishes the role of the villain, Tony Wendice, and his wife's ex lover, thriller writer Max Halliday (Daniel Betts) is just as hell bent on solving the crime. Kelly Hotten makes a sprightly and glamorous Mrs W, with Robert Perkins a convincingly seedy if unconvincingly named Captain Lesgate, and Christopher Timothy is the almost unscrupulously scrupulous Inspector Hubbard.

Much of the audience may well have had fun making comparisons with the film, although this is the play that the movie is based on. And it is entertaining, if preposterously so.

Dial M For Murder is at the Liverpool Playhouse until 8 March.

- Carole Baldock