Stars explained: * A production of no real merit with failings in all areas. ** A production showing evidence of not enough time or effort, or even talent, and which never breathes any real life into the piece – or a show lumbered with a terrible script. *** A good enjoyable show which might have some small flaws but has largely achieved what it set out to do.**** An excellent show which shows a great deal of work and stage craft with no noticeable or major flaws.***** A four star show which has found that extra bit of magic which lifts theatre to another plane.
Half stars fall between the ratings

Dial M for Murder 

Daniel Robert Beaton as Max and Samantha Lawson as Sheila

Dial M for Murder

Hall Green Little Theatre


THE moral of this tale of dirty deeds, betrayal and revenge? Don’t employ a work experience hit man.

This Frederick Knott play was made famous by Alfred Hitchock in one of his best movies and 65 years on it is still a treat for thriller fans.

Tony Wendice is, or rather was, a somewhat penniless playboy tennis star in the days before big money came along, and with a lifestyle and income at odds with each other, solved the solvency problem by marrying for love – the love of money that is.

Al McCaughey has the tall, lean looks of a tennis player, and the mannerisms, confidence and easy charm of a public school educated sports star in a convincing performance.

Wife Sheila was a fan, so was easy to woo, and although not heiress to a huge fortune – Tony’ first choice - is still a wealthy woman, her £29,000 in 1952 would be worth upwards of £800,000 today, enough to buy a lot of love.

Tired of his being away with constant touring she had asked him time and again to give up tennis which, to her great surprise a year ago, he did, abruptly, to spend more time with her and becoming instead a sports goods sales rep. True love at last? Don’t bet on it.Dial M for Murder 2

Samantha Lawson gives us a Sheila who, to be honest, is a bit wet. She seems a submissive sort, an ideal candidate for being a victim. When her world explodes around her she goes to pieces and becomes fatally compliant.

Then there is Max, an American TV screenwriter who has returned to London after a year working in the USA, and who has contacted old friend Sheila again, friendship being a broad church in this instance. He has called round to see her and to meet Tony – a year after he departed for the US and a year after Tony retired – to the day. Coincidence or what?

Daniel Robert Beaton has come up through the HGLT youth theatre and gives a mature, assured performance as the long distance lover boy.

Jon Richardson as Inspector Hubbard

Into this love triangle drifts Captain Lesgate an old school acquaintance rather than friend of Tony. They knew of rather than knew each other at school and while Wendice became a successful tennis star, Lesgate has become a rather less successful small time crook and conman.

Steve Brear is convincing as the petty criminal, suitably smarmy and shifty as he lies his way through yet another dodgy deal.

Yet his time has come, and he is about to play the biggest con of his life, which brings in the long arm of the ever reliable Jon Richardson as the unsmiling, rather intense Inspector Hubbard of Maida Vale CID.

The play started life as a Sunday Night Theatre production on BBC in 1952, transferring to the West End that summer and Broadway in the Autumn and was turned into a film by Hitchcock, in 3D no less, two years later starring Ray Milland and Grace Kelly.

It was praised from the outset for its clever plot and despite its age that still applies. The ingenious storyline is built, slowly and patiently, bit by bit, like a routemap, so you know exactly what is going to happen and when – except the best laid plans and all that . . .

So we have the first twist and a change to Plan B, and, as everything seems to be drifting along to its new conclusion and the final curtain along comes a second turnaround in the plot for an unexpected dramatic finale.

Julia Roden has designed a substantial and convincing looking set with a look of the 1950s and director Steve Fisher keeps up a good pace, although perhaps the extended scene changes could be speeded up as everything takes place on the same, London flat set. Breaks in momentum are not really helpful to a thriller.

Using a picture on the wall as a video screen for one scene works on one level although the tension perhaps might have been just as effective, if not more so, without it. At times imagination trumps visual aids when it comes to building tension, but that is perhaps a bit nit-picking in what is a well-paced, well-acted murder mystery which still has one of the most inventive plots of the genre. A night of real pleasure for thriller buffs. To 11-02-17

Roger Clarke


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