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Dial M For Murder (tour)

By • West End
WOS Rating:
Middle Ground have been successfully adapting classic and alternative dramas since 1998. Over the last couple of years they have invited audiences to revisit Brief Encounter and The Railway Children. On this occasion murder is on the menu and the audience on the night I attended fondly recall Hitchcock's famous film adaptation of Frederick Knott's Dial M For Murder.

Less of a whodunit and more of a howdunit, this thriller twists and turns the lives of three middle class people upside down. Tony Wendice (Steven Pinder) plans the perfect murder. His wife Sheila (Joy Brook) is having an affair with writer Max Halliday (Richard Grieve). Clearly aggrieved, Tony sets out to dispose of his wife whilst covering his tracks. But after blackmailing the mysterious Captain Lesgate (Richard Walsh), things start to go awry.

Knott's clever plotting pulls the rug from underneath the audience and gives the talented performers much to play with. Whilst not as clever as Deathtrap, this thriller still leaves you smiling at the ingenious double crossing and back footing.

Pinder has the audience rooting for him from the word go. He manages to imbue his character with devilish glee as his plan starts to take over his life. Joy Brook is convincing although not required to do much. Producer, director and designer, Michael Lunney also happens to be the best performer. His Inspector Hubbard is both cunning and inept. He reminded me of Stephen Fry in Gosford Park

Although this is an enjoyable play, it is not without its problems. Filmed scenes add nothing to the plot or the pace. In fact they seem pointless and slow the piece down. This is a shame as it takes much of the suspense away. Technical difficulties also bring the audience back to 2004 with a bump. For a tour that is very much underway there are too many lapses in both sound and vision.

Mark Taylor's modern music seems out of synch with the setting of the play and like the video footage merely irritates. Thankfully Middle Ground's marvellous set is very impressive and evokes a cosy lifestyle which is about to be ruined by greed.

Ultimately this is a mildly diverting evening which takes you back in time and reminds you how good stage thrillers used to be. It's a shame though that modern nuances and modern technology fudge the writer's original intent.

- Glenn Meads (reviewed at the Lowry, Salford Quays)


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