Review: Dial M for Murder at the Cheltenham Everyman

Terry and Olly in Dial M for Murder

Terry and Olly in Dial M for Murder - Credit: Archant

Dialling M for Murder might not work in an age of mobile phones and long STD codes – but don’t let that put you off a clever little plot, says Katie Jarvis, who can hear the cast

I loved the story in the Daily Mail this week (a paper I only read ironically) about Laurence Fox blasting a member of the audience for heckling, and then storming off stage. As the Mail is sketchy (really? Those jolly high standards slipping, Mail?) on what the heckler actually said, it’s hard to do anything other than relish the scene. I can’t take the moral high-ground here, exactly - Ian’s phone once went off (on a media alert – not a full call) in the theatre. His reaction was to hard-stare around, frowning so convincingly at others that at least two rows took their mobiles out to check.( I’m not making light of this; I’m just giving a tip, should the worst come to the worst.)

It seemed an unusually restless audience at Dial M for Murder on Wednesday night. One chap in our row exited for 10 minutes, leaving and returning as if pursued by a bear. Others rattled their sweet papers; and the lady behind me kept saying to her companion, “I don’t know if it’s me, but I can’t hear half of them” in a way that made me want to book her for voice-projection lessons.

Considering the stage is pretty much peopled with potential murderers – and considering this is a production company (talking Scarlet) that seems to like to perform plays with ‘murder’ in the title – I might have been a bit quieter, myself.

Anyway. I could hear. And, what’s more, I was jolly entertained by the production. Hitchcock liked the plot of Frederick Knott’s twisty-turny thriller enough to turn it into a film starring Grace Kelly. And you can see why. It’s a clever little thing that reminds you why it’s probably best not to commit murder, even if you think you’ve planned it awfully well; it’s the details that will find you out.

They’re all fairly ghastly, the characters. There’s Tony Wendice (Oliver Mellor), a broke former tennis champion who has married for money. His wife, Sheila (Terri Dwyer, once a doyenne of Hollyoaks) lives in fear of her one-time affair with Max Halliday (Marcus Hutton) being discovered. There’s my favourite character, Captain Lesgate (Jolyon Young), the type of man you should never buy a used car from (as, indeed, Tony Wendice doesn’t); and Inspector Hubbard (John Hester), the probing police officer, whose very ‘Hello!’s buzz with suspicion (just as Sheila’s every utterance sounds as if pronounced by someone tied to a train-track). But they were a good cast, playing as if they’d just stepped out of a Hitchcock film, and never once balking at the fact that, whenever the telephone rang, it sounded as if it were coming from an upturned bucket on the outskirts of Bishop’s Cleeve. (An annoying detail.)

The trouble with murders, as I mentioned before, is that the smallest detail will be the one that catches you out. Interestingly, in this play, it wasn’t the fact that two of the characters discussed their whole murder plot in loud voices (yes, lady behind me: loud voices), mostly with the door to the communal lobby wide open for any passers-by to hear. (Then, after closing the door, the one yells to the other not to pass by the window in case anyone sees him. LOL.)

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(And my other whinge is that the programme was not the packed, interesting good-value item it usually is ?.)

But as a means to while away an-otherwise quiet night, this is a nice little period gem… As well as a useful reminder that your spouse suddenly becoming very, very nice to you is probably not a good sign.

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