A life hanging on the line

Illicit lovers: Philip Cairns (Max Halliday) and Kelly Hotten (Sheila Wendice). Pictures: Manuel Harlan

Illicit lovers: Philip Cairns (Max Halliday) and Kelly Hotten (Sheila Wendice). Pictures: Manuel Harlan

Dial M for Murder

Birmingham Rep


Made famous by Alfred Hitchcock’s iconic1954 film, Fredrick Knott’s original play centres on a cold man’s bitterness towards his adulterous wife and the reactions of irrational thinking.

In this thriller, the question is not one of who committed the crime, that is already determined from the start, but why and how with the suspense and gripping tension beautifully built by the sublime cast as we are taken through the many twists and turns that Knott’s juicy script has to offer.

Knott’s story is deliciously tense and director Lucy Bailey has clearly taken this to new dimensions with her wonderful vision. The blood-red set is an allusion to the passions and motives of each character. When a seemingly absorbing piece of the story is revealed, the set subtly echoes the remarkably gripping points of the plot.

The excellent use of a revolve stage is barely noticeable at picture of Philip Cairns (Max Halliday) and Christopher Timothy (Inspector Hubbard)first, but as the story unravels itself with the help of an exceptionally talented cast, the senses become delightfully claustrophobic and intent on finding out ‘what’s next’.

The audience are spellbound by the depth of the plot so that when the perfectly timed effects and visuals become apparent it creates an experience beyond most crime storylines.

Mic Pool’s sound effects go hand in hand with Chris Davey’s clever lighting design, setting the mood for a night of intensity in the sitting room of the Wendice home.

Philip Cairns (Max Halliday) and Christopher Timothy (Inspector Hubbard)

Bailey’s production was made complete with a superb cast as Knott’s love-triangle plot was effortlessly played out, complemented by two other strong characters.

Daniel Betts was superb from beginning to end as he portrayed the complicated and indeed at times terrifying Tony Wendice. Thinking it is possible to get away with murder, Wendice is a fascinating, complex and horrifying character. Betts does more than justice to his passionate thought process and psyche.

Wendice’s wife, Sheila, played by the wonderful Kelly Hotten is certainly a victim of her husband’s jealousy and sometimes even a victim of herself. She bravely endures the unfolding events as Hotten shows great focus and utter empathy with her character.

Philip Cairns who plays Max Halliday is the subtle hero, a crime writer and the secret lover of Mrs. Wendice. His character is an instant favourite and Max’s moments with Sheila are beautifully captivating.

Christopher Timothy, perhaps best known for his TV appearances in Doctors and as James Herriot, gave a wonderful portrayal as the strong-minded and sharp Inspector Hubbard.

Timothy’s interpretation as the somewhat questionable policeman at first leads us to believe something totally different about his persona, without wanting to give too much away. Hubbard is remarkably quick though and Herriot fits the role well.

The cast is completed by Robert Perkins who gives us a harrowing Captain Lesgate. Blackmailed into the thickest moment of the plot, Perkins allows us to see the thought process of a character at war with morality and personal gain.

The acting has an intensity that brings the characters to life making the performance all the more electrifying and creating a truly gripping piece of theatre; passionate, enthralling and intensely invigorating. It is a great night of entertainment that is not to be missed. To 17-05-14.

Elizabeth Halpin



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