Dial M for Murder - directed by Ben Maples
"On a cold, snowy, winters evening there is nothing better than to be in a warm theatre watching a good old fashioned drama, full of blackmail, intrigue, lies and of course murder. An amorous letter, attaché full of cash, switched latch keys, and red herrings are scattered about for the audience to ponder and the detective to examine.
This play written by Frederick Knott and successfully adapted for the screen in 1954 by Alfred Hitchcock (starring Ray Milland, Grace Kelly, Bob Cummings) has meant that the play has never been too far away from the stage ever since. The play was premiered in 1952 before being performed on stage in June of the same year in the West End and then Broadway in October.
The language oozes 1950s style and the clarity and projection from all five of the actors was spot on. It was actually really lovely to hear English being spoken correctly. The director Ben Maples obviously knows this genre well.
The play slowly evolves as we meet Sheila Wendice, (Jo Fosker), the rich young, victimised wife of conceited tennis pro Tony.(Bruce Thomson). He has married her for her money and now wants to get rid of her. He locates an old acquaintance, Captain Lesgate, (Ed Godfrey) who is easily persuaded to kill Sheila for money. Unfortunately the plan does not work, when Shelia, unintentionally kills Captain Lesgate. Tony must now pit his wits against police Inspector Hubbard (Syd Smith) in order to get away with his involvement. Ian Russell portrays Max, not as an American crime writer but as an Englishman who has been working in the States. Erstwhile lover to Sheila he finds himself embroiled in their lives and is intent on saving Sheila from the gallows.
The set was a convincing London apartment with period 50's furniture and black and white photos on the wall of Max's tennis achievements plus tennis racquet and 50's black dial telephones. I would have liked to have seen longer curtains on the French Windows as when Captain Lesgate hides behind them you could see his feet.
Sheila's costumes placed the piece in the 50's, the men being timeless at this period in suits. Shelia's hair and lovely shoes really gave us the look that is needed for the show. Well done to the wardrobe mistress.
The lighting was a little basic with shadow across the back of the stage and no light in the hallway going to their bedroom which was a shame. Sound too was a little disappointing with nothing to cover the change of scenes when the tabs closed. A little dramatic 50's music would have built up each scene during these crucial moments. Instead we were left waiting in the black for the tabs to open.
Bruce Thompson as Max gave us a sinister and smooth villain. His confidence and ease on stage shows his maturity in his acting abilities and each time I see him on stage, I am impressed on how he adapts to every role he performs. His emotional detachment was evident as he plots Sheila's murder. His expressions of evil innocence and smiles around Sheila and his sincerity when plotting her murder were well acted.
Jo Fosker as his compelling wife was suitably confused and as each scene progressed her anguish and desperation as she looks to her husband for his support were well thought out. Her constant wringing of her hands and her distraught face spoke volumes as she finds she has killed a man in their flat with her scissors.
Ian Russell as the writer Max, and lover to Sheila was totally clear and concise and used his gesticulations to great use. He clearly enjoyed being on stage and worked well with the other actors.
Ed Godfrey with super moustache came in late to the rehearsals and gave us a credible character by underplaying what could be a stock villain in Captain Lesgate.
Inspector Hubbard, the ever reliable Syd Smith, portrayed the policeman with quiet and calm restraint, whist being a clever foil against Tony. Towards the end he seemed to lose his lines but was covered by the rest of the cast, so full marks for this as the team had no prompt during the run. For me this is good, as a prompt can sometimes spoil things for the actors on stage.
It was a great shame for the cast that on the last night we had the mini Beast from the East so few people attended to watch this credible production. I'm sure that this friendly society will have a lot more coming to the next show and look forward to seeing it. Well done to cast and crew for all the hard work that went into this production."