English playwright Frederick Knott only wrote three plays – one of which was Dial M For Murder. This stage thriller was first performed in London’s West End and on New York’s Broadway in 1952. In 1954 it was turned into a Hollywood film by the master of suspense, Alfred Hitchcock.
Dial M For Murder tells the story of now-retired professional tennis player Tony Wendice, who asks a former schoolmate to murder his wealthy socialite wife after discovering she’d had an affair with an American crime-fiction novelist. Things don’t go quite to plan and Inspector Hubbard must uncover the truth before it is too late.
Regular patrons of the 1812 Theatre will be almost accustomed to the quality sets, but again, the “Ladies and Gentlemen of the 1812” have outdone themselves. The detailed set (designed by Robin Emmett) and props (Tina Miller) set the era and are further enhanced by an exceptional lighting design (by Robin Le Blond).
Wardrobe (by Val Mitchelmore) was well-suited to the period, and fans of the 1954 movie might have noticed striking similarities to the costumes worn by Grace Kelly, in particular the stunning red dress.
Experienced director Chris Proctor has delivered an exceptional production that feels reminiscent of watching the Hitchcock movie. Proctor has captured all the quintessential features of this era, including the addition of the original music suite performed by The City of Prague Philharmonic Orchestra, and has carefully balanced all elements to raise the level of tension in the audience as they watch the story unfold.
All good murder mysteries need a villain and the 1812 Theatre have found the perfect bad guy in the casting of Justin Stephens as Tony Wendice. Stephens is no stranger to the 1812 Theatre. As founder of the Redfox3 Theatre Company, Justin Stephens has directed numerous productions at the 1812 Theatre, the most recent being the critically acclaimed Constellations. Stephens is also an experienced actor, yet, surprisingly, this is his first time on the stage of the 1812 Theatre. Hopefully it won’t be the last.
Stephens is outstanding in this role, delivering just the right balance of charm and evil intent to make this character a very believable and devious villain of the story. It’s not until the curtain call that the audience sees any glimpse of break in character from Stephens and his performance is certainly worthy of a Best Actor nomination when award season comes around.
Fans of the 1954 Hitchcock movie version of this play will not be disappointed by Angeline Thompson as Margot Wendice – the role played by Grace Kelly. Thompson brings a sense of 1950s feminine grace and poise to the character, but also a real naïve vulnerability.
Andy Fry gives a solid performance as Max Halliday, while Allon Dinor is convincing as ‘Captain Lesgate’. Rounding out the cast is Geoff Arnold as Inspector Hubbard. There were a few slipped lines on opening night but this will settle with further runs. Overall it was a good performance and Arnold is well-suited to the role.
This cleverly written story is not a “who-dunnit”, but rather a “how will they work it out?” type of murder mystery. While some astute audience members will take note of certain key moments in the plot that ultimately lead to the unravelling of the mystery, others will be wanting to go back and watch it again to see what they missed.
Bravo 1812 Theatre! Dial M For Murder is a very satisfying night of theatre.
Now playing at The 1812 Theatre www.1812theatre.com.au