Bournemouth Little Theatre Bournemouth Little Theatre, Bournemouth John Sivewright
19 April 2023
Thrillers are never easy to stage, never mind classic ones that have been adapted for the big screen, but BLTC deliver such a polished and gripping production of Frederick Knott’s ‘Dial M For Murder’ that you’d never know it. Many will be familiar with Alfred Hitchcock’s 1954 film version starring Ray Milland and Grace Kelly, but the story perhaps works best on the stage, and especially within the intimate setting of BLTC’s own theatre. The play sees ex-tennis pro Tony Wendice discovering the infidelity of his wife, Sheila, and subsequently trying to plot an ingenious murder. But as for plot descriptions, I’ll end it there, as going into much more detail would be at the risk of unwanted spoilers! Suffice to say, the audience are taken on an exhilarating ride with twists, turns and shocks aplenty, as the tension never lets up until the especially clever denouement.
While a popular choice among amateur dramatics groups, BLTC give their production its own edge by setting it in the 1960s, and this was to their advantage. The effort that went into the set, costumes and props was well evident, even down to the period groceries; the attention to detail of the production team is to be commended.
‘Dial M’ has a relatively small cast of five, which can add a pressure as any weak links might be more likely to stand out. It’s safe to say that wasn’t the case here, as all the players rose to their respective challenges and delivered creditable performances. Barry Gray, while a relative newcomer to the Club, is fast becoming a regular, and his turn as Tony adds a big string to his bow. Can you commit the perfect murder? Barry really got under the skin of his character and conveyed Tony’s sinister streak well as he began to plot and scheme his way to try to positively answer that question. As his wife Sheila, Hope Jeffrey gave a performance displaying an excellent range of emotional depth and coped especially well with the more physically demanding moments; stage fighting is always a challenge to do convincingly, which she did.
Peter Bennett as Captain Lesgate is in a somewhat thankless role, as he spends much of his time listening to exposition, but he produced a well-rounded characterisation, nevertheless. Ant Henson impressed as Max Halliday, especially showing the character’s desperation in the closing stages. Bob Rankin made his mark considerably as Inspector Hubbard, as he earnestly and endearingly tried to put all the pieces together; Bob’s performance was a very natural one that pulled the audience even further in towards the play’s dramatic conclusion.
The director of the piece, Don Cherrett, noted in the programme that ‘Dial M For Murder’ had long been on his “to do” list; it was definitely worth the wait, and he can be very proud of a job well done as his efforts, as well as those of the cast and crew, have combined to put together a memorable production.
The show runs until Saturday 22nd April, with evening performances at 7.45pm, and is well worth catching.