Dial M for Murder – written by Frederick Knott, directed by Val Smith
It is always a pleasure to go to the Memorial Hall in Broadstone. It was doubly so to see Am Dram alive and well with a packed audience for this fabulous play.
But before I get into that I have to say what a wonderful set these guys had built. The Memorial Hall is only little, and the stage is quite tiny so what Peter Watson and Estelle Hughes managed to do with it is nothing short of miraculous.
Costumes were also top notch. I’m no expert but Margot Wendice’s (played by Sali Pike) dresses were stunning.
Talking of Sali Pike, I thought her portrayal of Margot was spot on. Sophisticated, elegant and with that beautifully clipped accent of the 50’s black and white movies. I could’ve been at the cinema. Whilst her dresses were stunning there was something odd about her makeup. Under the lights she had the appearance of a very white face, almost like a geisha, that was not carried through the neck and décolletage, which looked normal skin tone. The lights are not that strong in the Memorial Hall so maybe ordinary day makeup would suffice unless they were going for some ghostly look.
The story, if you don’t know it, has more twists and turns than, well, a twisty-turny thing. Filled with illicit relationships, blackmail, intrigue, it must be fairly unique in that Tony Wendice (Richard Cawte) goes to great lengths to tell us precisely what he is going to do and how he’s going to do it.
Richard Cawte was outstanding. He looked terribly suave, sounded perfect and gave us the most incredibly convincing, despicable, calculating, manipulative, scheming, charming schmuck that you could take home to meet your mother. In many ways this is the Tony Wendice show his character is so real, so forceful and takes up so much of the dialogue. I wouldn’t want to take on the part but Richard was superb.
The lighting team could make life easier for themselves if they took control of the “practicals”; Table lamps, light switches for lights and so on. There were too many occasions where a light was switched on or off by the actor only to have the stage lighting state change moments afterwards. It’s just distracting for the audience and kills the tension.
The radio announcement sounded like somebody reading it offstage, it would’ve been nice to have a bit of 1950’s radio ambience. Having said that there was some really nice music underscoring some of the action which we don’t hear enough of on the stage these days.
A couple of the characters were a bit difficult to hear occasionally, and it was a shame that, due to lost words, the last scene suffered a significant wobble. But this was first night. I’m sure the nerves will settle and the rest of the run will be fabulous.
Overall this is a cracking show and congratulations are due to director Val Smith and a clearly talented team for giving us a great night out.
The play runs until 22nd February, including a matinee on Saturday afternoon.