Dial M for Murder spellbinds at The Rep

Can a perfect murder ever be committed, or do human frailties mean we miss tiny details that would inevitably get us caught? That is the premise for ‘Dial M for Murder’, a claustrophobic thriller by Frederick Knott that was most famously bought to life by the genius of Alfred Hitchcock and the beauty of Grace Kelly. A new production by Lucy Bailey is currently playing at The Rep theatre in Birmingham, and I went along to see how the suspense holds up 60 years after it was originally written.

The story is many layered. The glamorous Kelly Hotten plays Sheila Wendice, a once adulterous, now devoted wife of ex- tennis player Anthony Wendice. Her ex-lover Max Halliday has returned to her life after a spell as a television crime writer in New York, but she is determined to stay loyal to her husband. There is only one fly in the ointment, a love letter from Max to Sheila had been lost during the theft of her handbag a year previously, and Sheila has seemingly been blackmailed, although no money has actually been claimed. Sheila is therefore frightened that the dormant affair will be discovered, and put her now perfect marriage to Tony at risk.

unnamed

Philip Cairns (Max Halliday) and Kelly Hotten (Sheila Wendice) photo credit Manual Harlan

Unknown to Sheila, Anthony, bitter and dried up in his professional life, knows all to well about the affair, and has been plotting the demise of his wife through the perfect murder. But, as crime writer Max states, there is no such thing as the perfect murder, as human’s are often given away by the tiniest detail that they completely forget about. This proves to be the case, but the clever, calculated Tony Wendice has another plan up his perfectly tailored sleeve. Enter an Inspector with an eye for detail – will he so easily believe the perfect murder?

Kelly Hotten (Sheila Wendice) Photo credit Manual Harlan

Kelly Hotten (Sheila Wendice) Photo credit Manual Harlan

The cast of five players are uniformly excellent. Sheila is played by Kelly Hotten as a kittenish mixture of sensuality, who gradually falls apart as it becomes apparent the police don’t believe she is a victim, but a killer. Christopher Timothy exudes decency as Inspector Hubbard, a little world weary, but still having a real nose for a case that seems to good to be true. Philip Cairns as Max Halliday plays the role like a retro matinee idol, a real Hitchcock style hero who never gives up on trying to protect the leading lady. Robert Perkins is brilliantly seedy as Captain Lesgate, aka Swann, a charming bad apple who finds his past catching up with him in the most terrible way possible. A brilliant cast through and through, but it is Daniel Betts as the charming sociopath Tony Wendice who steals every scene he is in. A cold, calculating, but utterly charming character, Wendice channels the gamut of emotions, from chilling, methodical calculation as he outlines the perfect murder, to faux outraged indignation on behalf of his ‘beloved’ wife.

Christopher Timothy (Inspector Hubbard) Photo credit Manual Harlan

Christopher Timothy (Inspector Hubbard) Photo credit Manual Harlan

Daniel Betts and Kelly Hotten

Daniel Betts and Kelly Hotten

 

Everything else in note perfect in this production. This is a play that is all about the little details, and they are covered to excellent effect, from the blood red set that revolves, allowing you to watch scenes unfold from all perspectives, to the use of silence to build tension. The jazzy theme works very well, especially when it rises to crescendo at key points, and the red curtain that is pivotal to the plot leaves the audience acting almost like a voyeur.

Quite simply one of the best plays I have ever seen, Dial M for Murder is one not to be missed. It runs at the Birmingham Rep until Saturday 17th May. For ticket information, click here.

Theatre tickets – A great Christmas Gift idea

I don’t mind admitting I am a bit of a theatre buff. I love nights spent at the Birmingham Hippodrome, watching the Birmingham Royal ballet perform, and also enjoy musicals and all manner of plays, from drama’s to comedies. I have a hitlist of things that I want to see at the theatre, with Wicked Musical tickets currently at the top of my wishlist for 2014. Theatre tickets and vouchers are a great idea for a special Christmas gift for a loved one, and I have detailed some of the hot tickets for 2014 below.

Some Girl I used to know

Denis Van Outen is a brilliant theatre performer, and this one-woman show, littered with hit songs and references from the 1980s promises to be both touching and funny in equal parts. If you can remember the days of taping songs from the radio, of big air and big fun, then this is definitely worth seeing. Coming to Birmingham’s Alex theatre in February.

15156_full

Dial M for Murder

I’m a huge Alfred Hitchcock fan, and a huge Grace Kelly fan, so this is a must see for me. I loved the film version of this, but did always find it a little bit ‘stagey’ – you could tell it was adapted from a stage play. This makes it a must see on an actual stage.  The play is being directed by Lucy Bailey, who has already adopted a film classic, ‘The Postman always rings twice’ for the stage, so this is all set to be a masterpiece. Can’t Wait. This is coming to the Birmingham Rep in May 2014.

676x400.fitandcrop

Wicked

One of the most popular musicals of all time is now doing a tour of the UK and Ireland that will make it the nationwide hot ticket for 2014. Wicked is the story before the Wizard of Oz, the story of the two witches Glinda and Elphaba, and how they came to be the good witch and the Wicked Witch of the West. Wicked has won over 90 international awards and counting, and is the musical that people go to see again and again.

wicked_5

Look out for more theatre reviews coming up, a post about Ghost the musical will be on the blog later this week.