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Knockabout thriller Dial M for Murder still delights

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Tom Chambers (left) and Sally Bretton star in Dial M for Murder
Tom Chambers (left) and Sally Bretton star in Dial M for Murder

THAT the best laid plans go awry is proven in an enjoyable knockabout update of Dial M for Murder’s genre defining cat-and-mouse thriller.

Scripted by Frederick Knott in 1952, the story is well known for being turned into a creditable film directed by Alfred Hitchcox and in this version, which visited the Salisbury Playhouse as part of a national tour, the action is cleverly updated to the 1960s to give it more of a swinging vibe.

But while the play is set amidst the backdrop of a changing nation the action predictably stays true to roots of the original, and most of its two-hour running time remains in the living room of a swanky flat.

It centres on a plan by ex-Tennis pro Tony Wendice, who has decided to murder his glamourous wife Margot as she has been playing away from home with crime writer Mark Halliday.

Tom Cambers plays ex tennis pro Tony Wendice and Sally Bretton his wife, Margot
Tom Cambers plays ex tennis pro Tony Wendice and Sally Bretton his wife, Margot

He skilfully entraps Cambridge chum Charles Swann into doing the killing for him, but events take a turn when the intended consequence is flipped on its head.

The second half, driven by the arrival of Inspector Hubbard, unmasks a killer, a suspicion all is not right, and a race to prove the truth before the wrong person is hanged for the crime.

As Tony, former Strictly Come Dancing winner Tom Chambers infuses the creepy protagonist with a boyish air that adds an interesting element to a duplicitous and calculated killer.

Unfortunately the role of Margot is underwritten but Sally Bretton does a very good job of wringing what she can out of the character, while Michael Salami manfully fulfils the odd quirks of the crime writer and Christopher Harper does a nicely embodies Captain Lescott as a member of the old boys network as well as the journeyman persistence of Insp. Hubbard.

The action benefits from some nifty interludes showcasing the music of the time on what is a very handsome set featuring actors in terrific period costumes.

But while the piece features some deft and intriguing little touches and benefits from being updated to the 60s, it slightly baulks at some points.

The tension is undercut at times as too much exposition softens the sense of danger present and it is a shame swapping the genders of the main characters was not considered since it could have better complimented the changing nature of the times the play is set in.

However, it is a fun ride overall and delighted the audience at Salisbury, demonstrating crowds still hanker for and appreciate a good old fashioned suspense thriller.

Dial M for Murder, starring Tom Chambers and Sally Bretton is playing Salisbury Playhouse until Saturday 14th March.

Tickets are available at dialmformurderplay.com.

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