DIAL M FOR MURDER
Grand Theatre, Wolverhampton, Thursday 28th April, 2016
Frederick Knott’s classic thriller bears repeated viewing (this is my third or fourth production) not least because it’s not a whodunit – it’s more of a will-he-get-away-with-it? And even if you already know the answer to that, there is still much to reward the audience in this tautly written, expertly plotted piece. A lesson in crime-writing.
Tony Wendice (Oliver Mellor) is plotting to bump off his wife Sheila (Terri Dwyer) and so enlists former school acquaintance and Jeremy Clarkson lookalike (Jolyon Young) to do the actual deed. Knott has the two men talk through the plan in detail so we know what’s coming. This adds to the suspense. A phone call is to be the inciting action… When it happens, the playwright shows he has surprises up his sleeve.
Oliver Mellor is rather good at being bad. His Tony is a manipulative, assertive bully – I enjoy disliking him from the off. Terri Dwyer cuts an elegant figure in 50s couture and, of the entire company, she captures the acting style of the period without descending into spoof or caricature. Marcus Hutton gives a suave and earnest turn as Sheila’s erstwhile lover Max. The dialogue, somewhat dated now, sounds fresh coming from these more-than-competent actors. I find it hard to credit that the young Mellor and the older Young were at the same school, however fleetingly, but I suspend my disbelief and let that go.
Completing the company is an enjoyable John Hester as Inspector Hubbard, deadpan and perspicacious. We get just much pleasure from watching him unpick Wendice’s deadly scheme. Director Patric Kearns handles the suspense and the violence well, and the show looks great, courtesy of Geoff Gilder’s design and David North’s lighting. Production company Talking Scarlet has mounted a solid, dependable staging of a play that epitomises the genre. Very satisfying.
No, I don’t have PPI – Olvier Mellor as Tony Wendice
Leave a comment | tags: David North, Dial M For Murder, Frederick Knott, Geoff Gilder, Grand Theatre Wolverhampton, John Hester, Jolyon Young, Marcus Hutton, Oliver Mellor, Patric Kearns, review, Terri Dwyer | posted in Theatre Review
A MURDER HAS BEEN ARRANGED
Grand Theatre, Wolverhampton, Tuesday 16th July, 2013
The Ian Dickens Summer Season draws to a close with this fourth offering, an effective chiller from 1930 by Emlyn Williams. It plays out like a murder mystery, typical of that genre, but there is a supernatural element to proceedings that turn it into a ghost story towards the end.
The plot concerns an unusual party that takes place on stage of an empty theatre, rented for the occasion of Lord Jasper’s 50th birthday. According to the terms of a will, if he can survive until 11 pm, he stands to inherit a couple of million quid. Lord Jasper is something of an expert in all things occult and the theatre is reputed to have its own ghostly apparitions – hence his choice of location. Also in the running is Jasper’s only surviving relative, a mystery man who will inherit if the old boy doesn’t make it to midnight…
It’s a creaky old plot but once it’s up and running you go along for the ride, thanks to the performances by a strong ensemble of players. Paul Lavers is dashing and flamboyant as genial eccentric Sir Jasper with Nicola Weeks very good as his young bride. It seems to me Weeks is more suited to these period roles than some of the more contemporary comedies I’ve seen her in. The bride’s mother is the marvellous Anita Harris, looking glamorous and elegant, balancing superciliousness and desperation, as she tries to protect her daughter’s interests. Also in the mix is handsome young hero Jimmy North (the likeable Mark Martin) who worms his way into the party – as a character, he fizzles out in that he is not part of bringing the murderer to light, but that’s all part of how Emlyn Williams plays with the genre. I was impressed by Karen Ford as Mrs Wragg, a character part of strung-together colloquialisms, managing to keep on the right side of gor-blimey; she adds a touch of levity to proceedings and also helps to build the spooky atmosphere. Poppy Meadows adds to the tension as jumpy Miss Groze, although we discover the reason for her nervousness is nothing to do with the theatre ghost…
Of course, the mysterious relative shows up. Oliver Mellor dominates his scenes as Maurice Mullins, whose camp, extrovert exterior masks a Machiavellian heart, playing him with energy but keeping the melodramatic elements of the role toned down somewhat. Any pretence at a whodunit is swept away and the play shifts gear. Supernatural elements are brought to bear to expose the killer – like Banquo’s ghost at the dinner table. Directors Ian Dickens and David North crank the tension slowly and play the dramatic irony to the utmost but the first appearance of the ‘Woman’ (Melissa Thomas) could do with being a touch more unworldly. Good use is made of silence (when the audience is not coughing itself inside out, that is!) and Steve Chambers’s sound design adds to the sense of foreboding very effectively.
It’s an old-fashioned piece, a little longwinded in places, but it’s handled well and bears up in this day and age when we are more accustomed to flashier special effects and faster-moving stories.
Leave a comment | tags: A Murder Has Been Arranged, Anita Harris, David North, Emlyn Williams, Grand Theatre Wolverhampton, Ian Dickens, Karen Ford, Mark Martin, Melissa Thomas, Nicola Weeks, Oliver Mellor, Paul Lavers, Poppy Meadows, review, Steve Chambers | posted in Theatre Review