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Dial M for Murder (Birmingham Repertory Theatre)

Lucy Bailey's production continues its tour in Birmingham

Rating: 3 out of 5 stars
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Kelly Hotten as Sheila Wendice
© Manuel Harlan

The classic thriller Dial M for Murder was written as a play by Frederick Knott and later made into a film by Alfred Hitchcock. Under the direction of Lucy Bailey, this production brings the story back to the stage with an eerie atmosphere.

This isn't really a "Whodunnit", we learn early on; it is more a case of "Will he get away with it?". Tony Wendice married for money but even that didn't stop him becoming jealous when he found out about his wife's affair. We soon see through his pleasant hardworking facade as he deviously plots his wife's murder.

Daniel Betts plays the cunning Tony Wendice, showing both sides of his character's nature perfectly - he is charming and evil in equal measures. Shelia Wendice (Kelly Hotten) is the victim of the piece, and although she was unfaithful to her husband, you can feel for her. In contrast to the efficient and precise Tony, there is the seemingly bumbling Inspector Hubbard (Christopher Timothy), who adds another dimension when he enters the action.

What the play lacks in pace it makes up for in atmosphere. The soundtrack of slightly inharmonious music and the occasional jarring sound help to put you on edge. During the attack scene, the screams are amplified and are almost unbearable in their fear and panic. With a set of floor to ceiling blood red coverings and a slow moving red voile curtain, the mood is ominous and macabre. The story all takes place in the sitting room of the Wendice apartment, which at times slowly revolves as the plot unfolds, changing an audience's perspective. A clever use of lighting enables you to see through the back wall of the apartment and the occasional business in the entrance hall.

While some may not like being able to play detective during the evening there is still suspense, intrigue and enjoyment to be had from this production.