DIAL M FOR MURDER LOWTHER PAVILION It’s 70 years to the month since Dial M for Murder, a murder thriller set in post-war upper-class London, opened at the Plymouth Theatre, New York, The Cambridge-educated English author Frederick Knott, also a tennis blue, subsequently wrote the screen play for Alfred’s Hitchcock’s 1954 Hollywood film blockbuster which ever since has been a template for the genre. The Fylde Coast Players ensure that the play stands the test of time, with all five of the cast skilfully embodying the accents and attitudes of the day, backed up by period furniture and costumes, so that the audience can concentrate their attention on the plot. And concentrate you have to, as the lengthy first half scatters small clues amidst the dialogue which you can’t afford to miss. The central quintet of actors all shine. Andy Cooke plays former tennis champion and writer Tony Wendice whose wife Sheila (Andrea Cave) has been having an affair with murder thriller writer Max Halliday (Philip Allan). Mick Gray plays the unappealing ex public schoolboy Captain Lesgate with just the right degree of shadiness - until he is unexpectedly stabbed to death by Sheila apparently in self-defence. This leaves us wondering. Spoiler alerts prevent your reviewer from saying more than that the tension is really wound up after the interval as Inspector Hubbard of the Yard investigates. Here Don Green brings a delightfully soft tone to his acute and probing questioning, though sometimes he is too quiet. It is pleasing, as the plot thickens in the second half , to watch Andy Cooke’s portrayal of the gradual but ever-increasing shiftiness of Tony and Andrea Cave’s subtle movements towards the brink of nervous collapse. Director Tim Greenwood ensures that the significant clues in the dialogue are always spoken at just the right pace, the tension builds step by step and the denouement is dramatically presented. As a pattern for an extremely English murder thriller the show excels and the Fylde Coast Players do it proud. Julian Wilde
See the Programme....
And the NODA review..
Author: Nathan Benson
Many thanks to Fylde Coast Players for inviting me along to see their production of the crime thriller ‘Dial M for Murder,’ written by Frederick Knott, at the Lowther Pavilion on Thursday 20th October 2022. This production was of an extremely high standard and the cast and production teams should be extremely proud of the work they achieved.
This show, which was very topical for the spooky time of year, tells the story of a husband, Tony Wendice, who has spent a year plotting the perfect murder of his wife, Margot Wendice, after learning of her affair with Max Halliday. Tony blackmails and bribes his old college associate with a shady past, Captain Lesgate, to undergo his plan and strangle her whilst he has his alibi lined up as he will be entertaining Max at a friend’s stag do. But when things go wrong and Margot manages to stab her way free from her attacker, he sees a way to turn events to his advantage, with Margot sentenced to the death penalty upon her arrest for the murder of her attacker. Director Tim Greenwood did a terrific job of pulling off this narrative in a seamless, well drilled performance, with lots of light and shade and great moments of suspense, with a fantastic set and technical design which enhanced the tension and sinisterness very well. There was great uses of staging, keeping the visual simulating and interesting and there were some well-rounded characterisations brought together to deliver this story line. I also loved the immersive experience of having the set exposed and lit up in an eerie dark hue of red whist the audience were entering, and topping the show with a horror movie style overture, which gave insight into the dark and murderous themes within the show.
The design elements we great standard throughout. The set consisted of a detailed naturalistic lounge of a ground floor London 1950s flat, in which this play was set. There was a functioning patio door upstage left, a bedroom door upstage centre, a pantry corridor upstage left leading to other unseen areas of the flat and a front door and entrance way of on the boxed in downstage right. What I found most interesting about the set was how the space to the left of the flat was built as a full staircase within the entryway of the apartment. This was a key part in within the plotline and to see this area clearly not only further contextualised the setting but also enabled naturalistic performances to occur to help the scenes unravel. I also loved the detail within the set dressing, such as authentic furniture to the 1950’s style, a fully light up fireplace and the use of ornaments, such as the tennis rackets hanging on the wall, which all were true to the characters and further contextualised the play. Lighting was very detailed and added to the sinister feel to the show, between scenes, and ahead of the show, there was a blood red spot which shone over the leather sofa, centre stage, and a similar spotlight which shone down the staircase mentioned earlier, this was placed with an effective gobo which gave a haunting shadow within the hue. To accompany this on the inter-scenes, there were some very well-chosen musical interludes, such as a haunting version of ‘Every Breath You Take’ which not only added atmosphere, but also contained some very poignant lyrics, adding to the storyline and themes of the production. Costumes and props were also detailed and fitting to the period and to character.
Andrea Cave gave a fabulous performance Sheila Wendice. She really shone in this role and was always thoroughly believable within the character, maintaining mannerisms and idiosyncrasies as she took the character through a great journey. There was intensity to the murder scene, and you could literally read her thought processes as she was digesting the aftermath and following events.
Andy Cooke expertly played Tony Wendice. There was so much detail that Andy brought to this character and played the many scenarios this character needed to play with honesty and gravitas to convey him as an expert in deception. He provided insight into the character’s darkness through smug side looks and minute breaks from his pretence, making the psychopathic tendencies of the character prevail.
Max Halliday was played by Philip Allan. It was hard to believe that this was Philip’s first stage debut as he looked very comfortable on the stage. I think I would have liked to have seen this character a bit more artsy and flamboyant, seeing that he is a top crime writer, but what he delivered worked well, with great pace and clarity. For improvement I would recommend Phillip to think about reacting within the moment, as I personally found some of the acting was a little preconceived, but a very well delivered first role, you should be proud.
Mick Gray gave a fantastic performance as Captain Lesgate. There was a slight humour created within this characterisation, which lightened the intensity of the sinister plot. There was not a second that Mick was not authentic within this role, which, although a bit slimy, had charm and charisma to spare.
Don Green played Inspector Hubbard well and brought a grounded, authoritative feel to the character. PC Thompson and PC Williams were combined into one role and were played by Jeff Redfern who took on this cameo role with finesse and the voice of the radio announcer was provided by Ian Edmundson, who sounded authentic in this role. I would like to thank Fylde Coast Players again for inviting me to this show, it was a real treat and I look forward to seeing more creations from this society.