Based on the 1954 film directed by Alfred Hitchcock, and bursting with suspense, Dial M for Murder isn’t your typical murder mystery. The story of an ex-tennis pro who conceives a plan to murder his wife in order to have her money is pacy, intriguing and witty.
Opening in a 1950’s stylish front room, the essence of wealth is evident as Sheila Wendice (Terri Dwyer) emerges on stage in a floaty black ball gown. She sits down next to Max Halliday (Marcus Hutton), a murder and crime writer, and an ex lover. As they reminisce on their romantic times together, unsure when her husband will arrive home, Sheila informs Max that her husband believes he is merely a friend to her and he is unaware they had a romantic past.
When Sheila’s husband Tony (Oliver Mellor) appears, the audience are introduced to the charismatic, smooth-talking leading character that is about to take them on a series of twists and turns. Mellor encapsulates the calm yet utterly compelling character of Tony, his portrayal of Tony’s corrupt innocence is executed superbly. His characterisation is effective alongside his frantic wife who’s levels of uncertainty highlight her sense of panic. She is a stereotypical 1950’s woman, rather pathetic and relies on the dominance of a man. Dwyer maintains this weak, fearfulness and masters the overbearing qualities of role.
Tony enlists the help of Captain Lesgate (Jolyon Young) by blackmailing him into killing his wife. A particularly absorbing scene in the show is when Tony describes his intricate plan, and the steps Captain Lesgate must take in order to kill his wife. When Lesgate panics and threatens to tell the police, Tony remains undisturbed and assures Lesgate that his plan is well-thought-out.
In the second act, Inspector Hubbard (John Hester) arrives at the Wendice home, the dry humour of his character is excellent as he comes out with witty one liners in an attempt to catch someone out. Whilst he is not the most clued up or menacing inspector, he manages to maintain a poised manner as he tries to decipher what really occurred.
Atmospheric lighting is used to heighten the tension and suspense, when the lights dim, the audience are gripped into the scene that is about to unfold. Although the transitions are slow, this works in the play’s favour as it didn’t slow the production down, it actually highlighted the uncertainty and created an anxiously eery feeling within the audience.
The production itself bares resemblance to an Agatha Christie style murder mystery, although the audience are aware of the murderer, it is who will get the blame that is causing the exhilarating intrigue. The script has it’s strengths but requires tightening, particularly in the second act as it becomes slightly repetitive. However the formidable acting overpowers the weaknesses in the script, as the depiction of each character is exceptional.
Dial M for Murder is a thrilling production that is impeccably acted by a cast that create an engaging performance, they skilfully captivate the audience with a powerful sense of anticipation.
On until the 30th of April at the Wolverhampton Grand, tickets can be found here.