Dial M for Murder at the King’s Theatre, Edinburgh
In 1953 Alfred Hitchcock directed the film version of Frederick Knott’s first ever play. And director Anthony Banks has obviously turned to him for his inspiration in staging this production from Simon Friend Entertainment and Cavin Kalin Productions.

Discordant music, reminiscent of Psycho, rises to a crescendo as Knott’s plot begins to unfold in a Fifties flat in London’s fashionable Maida Vale, and Hitchcock’s influence prevails throughout the evening with dramatic performances, and lighting which literally throbs blood red at appropriate moments.

Tom Chambers and Christopher Harper may be best known for their appearances in the likes of Holby City, Casualty, Midsomer Murders and Coronation Street, but their acting in this production belongs to the period. Set in a flat retro-enthusiasts would give their eye teeth for, they appear, by today’s standards, melodramatic, their delivery and movement exaggerated – and it works.

Chambers, as Tony, the cuckolded husband who plans to have his wife murdered, is earnest and gushing in his attempt to fool her that he is a model husband, while Harper convincingly plays a ne’er do well former school friend chosen by Tony to do the deed, while later reinventing himself as a detective inspector from the north of England.

Into the mix is Sally Bretton as Margot, Tony’s wife, and Michael Salami as Max, the TV crime writer with whom she is having an affair. All adhere to the period, where a car cost £1,100 and £60 was looked on as a lot of money. But what gives the production authenticity is Lizzie Powell’s convincing ‘natural’ daylighting (though the sunset is a bit too pink).

Twists and turns abound as everything, of course, does not go according to plan, including some oversights: did Margot really go into the open plan kitchen dressed in pyjamas and come over fully clothed? And her handling of a bouquet looked like a magic act as she laid it down, fully wrapped, behind a counter, and then produced the flowers already in their vase. And were thick black tights in fashion in the 50s? I think not.

Image: Manuel Harlan
Dial M for Murder is at the King’s Theatre, Edinburgh until February 29
Box Office: 0131 529 6000
It then continues touring:
Mar 3-7: Theatre Royal, Glasgow
Mar 10-14: Salisbury Playhouse
Mar 17-21: Churchill Theatre, Bromley
Mar 24-28: Palace Theatre, Southend
Apr 8-11: Dubai Opera House
Apr 14-18: Milton Keynes Theatre
Apr 20-25: The Alexandra Theatre, Birmingham
Apr 28-May 2: New Theatre, Cardiff
May 4-9: Leicester Curve
May 12-16: Sheffield Lyceum
May 19-23: Liverpool Playhouse
May 25-30: Theatre Clwyd, Mold
June 2-6: Theatre Royal, Brighton
June 9-13: Theatre Severn, Shrewsbury
June 16-20: The Lowry, Salford
June 22-27: Royal & Derngate, Northampton
June 30-Jul 4: Theatre Royal, Plymouth
Jul 8-11: Leeds Grand Theatre
Jul 14-18: Grand Theatre, Wolverhampton
Jul 21-25: Oxford Playhouse