Murderously long thriller saved by superb acting

Dial M for Murder
Dial M for Murder

Frederick Knott’s play Dial M for Murder is rooted in the 1950s and epitomises the dramatic style of the era when it was first produced.

It is wordy and top heavy with dialogue, has a lack of visual impetus and unlike in a Durbridge, Hamilton or Levin play there is no building of tension or sudden shocks.

To create a successful production from this work is a challenge. Dial M for Murder doesn’t need a few tweaks – it needs a full body makeover.

Ben Roddy’s production limps along with little or no tension building and unnecessary curtain drops that grind the already slow pace to a halt.

The plot revolves around ex-tennis star Tony who married Sheila for her money.

When he finds out she is in love with crime writer Max, he starts to plot her murder.

He hires con man Lesgate to murder her and finds himself a suitable alibi. However, things go wrong when Sheila defends herself. Convicted of murder she faces the ultimate penalty – but thankfully the inspector on the case continues his investigations.

As Sheila, Katy Dean plays the archetypal society wife with great feeling.

Louis Tamone’s Tony slips between the loving husband and a cold and calculating killer.

Both Tamone and Dean move the lengthy dialogue along expertly and try to give it a much needed lift.

When John Hester’s Inspector Hubbard comes into the scenario a spark of life ignites. He brings a wonderfully endearing side to the character of Hubbard especially in the closing scenes.

Phil Stewart’s Captain Lesgate is a totally believable, typical old-school-tie type con man although I would have liked to have seen him even more menacing as the play progressed.

Suave, caring and sophisticated, Marcus Hutton’s, Max the ex-lover handles the role well, injecting life into a rather bland character.

Dial M For Murder was part of the new repertory season at Harrogate Theatre.

This week its Noel Coward’s Private Lives which is on now and runs until Saturday September 22 with performances daily at 7.30pm. Matinees are Wednesday September 19 and Saturday September 22 at 2.30pm.

Tickets: 01423 502 116