Yvonne Arnaud Theatre, Guildford – until 8 February 2020
Reviewed by Antonia Hebbert
Handsome, charming tennis star Tony Wendice has settled down into seemingly blissful married life. His wife thinks he doesn’t know about her past affair, but we know that he knows, and that he has a secret of his own: he married to get rich, and now he wants to be rich and single. This has the ingredients of a fiendish whodunnit, except that you actually do know who the villain is, and exactly why and how he plans to do away with his victim, while giving himself a cast-iron alibi. The perfect crime … but will he get away with it?
The beginning is rather slow and wordy, as Wendice has to explain everything, but once the plot is unhatched, it’s gripping and fun, with a neat twist to keep you focusing on those important clues. It helps that the quick-footed Wendice is played by that nice Tom Chambers, who won series six of Strictly Come Dancing. He’s entirely believable as the controlling husband who seems to be doing all he can to protect his wife (Sally Bretton, who makes the best of being a baffled innocent with hardly any words). Christopher Harper brings a swagger to the proceedings as the sharp detective inspector. Michael Salami is the lover who just happens to be a specialist in murder mysteries.
Dial M for Murder is best known for the 1954 film version by Alfred Hitchcock, but this production has replaced moody 1950s glamour with classic 1960s styling. David Woodhead’s set is a delight, as are some of the outfits. Ben and Max Ringham provide an atmospheric soundscape. It all makes for an entertaining evening, though the play itself feels pretty dated – the role of the wife in particular is awfully thin.