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The die is cast…

REVIEW: Dial M For Murder – Malvern Theatres (Monday, November 29 – Saturday, December 4).

CHRISTOPHER Harper stalks his prey like a pike slowly skirting the fringes of the reed bed, leaden eyes fixed on his quarry.

Here is the hunter and the hunted, the former confident of success, the latter unsuspecting of the fate that awaits. Yes, it’s just a matter of time before the fatal lunge and it’s all over…

Harper is busy tonight. He’s playing both baddie and goodie, Captain Lesgate and Inspector Hubbard, respectively. Demanding roles? Yes, indeed. Does he manage it? Yes again – and with flying colours.

Little by little, our persistent policeman coaxes the suspect into a trap of his own making, and then the judicial jaws slam tight shut. It’s the convoluted logic of the keys, you see. No, I couldn’t follow it, either.

And if we in the audience are confused and tied in knots, just imagine what it’s like for Tony Wendice, the man who thought he’d planned the perfect murder. Until the whole thing went pear-shaped, that is.

Wendice is played by Tom Chambers, a man who has conveniently been blessed by Nature with the visage of a dashed dastardly cad, the type you wouldn’t trust in a million years.

He’s concocted a plot to kill his unfaithful wife after he discovers her affair with another dashed cad by the name of Max Halliday, played with loose-buttoned panache by Michael Salami, a man whose trousers don’t appear capable of staying in situ for long.

Meanwhile, Diana Vickers as wife Margot sashays across an opulent period pad, desperately trying to cope with the stress of having two men in her life, and all the subterfuge and deceit that this involves.

But unfortunately for her, husband Tony is not the type of man who takes lightly to playing the cuckold, and so starts to conspire and set his fiendish scheme in motion.

As you would expect from any psychological thriller like this one, Frederick Knott’s classic yarn keeps us guessing right up until the last moment, endlessly twisting, turning and taking us down blind alleys.

There is also some interesting period detail on offer, too, enhanced by set and costume designer David Woodhead and lighting designer Lizzie Powell.

The setting is a London garden flat in 1963, around the time the last person was executed for murder in Britain. The significance of this historical milestone emerges as the play approaches its conclusion, and permeates the piece with an added poignancy that lingers long after this reviewer has left the theatre...

Footnote: Diana Vickers plays Margot Wendice today (Tuesday, November 30) and on Saturday (December 4). The role will be played by Katy Allen on Wednesday (December 1) and on Friday and Thursday (December 2 and 3).

Pictured: Tony Wendice (Tom Chambers)… definitely up to no good.

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