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