Kings Theatre Edinburgh – until 29 February 2020
Reviewed by Manetta Anderson-McIntosh
Dial M for Masterclass.
Despite my aging years, I had not seen this production either on stage or screen. In this era of special effects and murder mysteries galore, I was intrigued to see if something written in the 1950’s could transcend the decades. Well, I was pleasantly surprised. This production, directed by Anthony Banks, was brought forward slightly to the 60’s to give it a more modern feel. I have to say I loved everything about it, from entering the theatre and having the set there for all to see, no safety curtain hiding it away, and some very relaxing music playing, to the clever use of lighting as well as the production itself.
The plot, for those who haven’t seen it before, tells the story of a flagging tennis pro – in danger of losing his wife to an affair with a screenwriter he gives up tennis and gets a real job to keep his wife. A year later, when the screenwriter comes back into the picture, we then see the unravelling of a dastardly plot to have the wife murdered, which appears to have been a year in the making.
Tom Chambers played the villain (Tony Wendice) exceptionally well, he had us all in the palm of his hand, laughing at him one minute and despising him the next. Much to my surprise, there were only 4 actors for the 5 characters, I had not spotted that Christopher Harper played both Captain Lesgate and Inspector Hubbard, so well-done hair and make-up. I also loved his stereotypical portrayal of the Army Captain right down to his floppy hair and plum chinos, it was like I was back in the Officers Mess. Sally Breton who plays Margot Wendice, the wife, made quite an impact considering her time on stage was less than she made it appear, not through any fault of hers but more to do with the era the play was written. I expect Knott would not get away with such a stereotypically subservient (and quiet) wife in today’s climate. Max Halliday (Michael Salami) puts his crime writing skills to the test to try and save his one-time lover by coming up with a scenario which was curiously close to Tony’s actual plot. Fortunately, we don’t have to solely rely on an amateur because the Inspector is already on the case, but they do cut it fine to save Margot from the hang-man’s noose. But it’s not surprising if it took Tony a week to paint that tiny kitchen.
I felt that despite knowing who the villain was, I was still in suspense right to the end, to see if they could pin it on Tony. Fabulous production.