After discovering his wife’s infidelity, Tony Wendice decides to plot the ‘perfect murder’. As Frederick Knott’s thrilling production unfolds, it becomes clear that this murder is rather imperfect as audiences watch Tony squirm under a disaster of his own making.
This production of the iconic thriller Dial M for Murder, which I saw at Cheltenham's Everyman Theatre, updates to a 1960s set. Whilst this is a little jarring initially, it is quickly compensated by a brilliant soundtrack that had heads nodding and feet tapping across the theatre. The set itself is impressive and convincingly conveys Tony and Margot’s intimate ground floor Maida Vale flat. We get the tiniest glimpses of the outside world as we suffocate beneath the impending failure of Tony’s plan - flitting shadows, a hand checking for dust above the door, the infamous fifth step carpet under which lies the pivotal latchkey. Small details like this trap you even tighter within the action, reminding
you that you too are stuck within Tony’s web of lies.
The intimacy of the play’s setting is complemented by Tom Chambers’ charismatic performance. Dial M for Murder is hailed as a masterclass in suspense, and Chambers’ portrayal of Tony Wendice is both unsettlingly comical and perfectly sinister. A scene that stands out in this regard is his long conversation with Captain Lesgate, played by Chris Harper, whom he convinces to murder his unfaithful wife. As the menacing core of what Wendice is saying
becomes clear, a chilling soundtrack creeps into the production. What begins as a catch up between two school acquaintances is soon an elaborately plotted murder, and this shift in conversation occurs seamlessly.
Chris Harper also plays Inspector Hubbard in the second act, which is where the story really picks up. Harper shines as Hubbard and has some great moments with Michael Salami as Max Halliday, a determined crime writer convinced his musings can save his lover from execution. Hubbard raises the tension even further as he tries to get to the bottom of the incident, making to leave the flat and stopping for ‘one more thing…’ just as Wendice begins to think he’s
gotten away with it.
Dial M for Murder is a fantastic production with an engaging and talented cast. The excruciating suspense throughout is punctuated nicely with witty humour, making for a great theatre experience. It ends just when it needs to and wraps up tightly, finally satisfying its audience after two acts of pure tension. An iconic murder story, charming performances and an engaging set all combine perfectly for a thrilling evening at the theatre. Highly recommend!