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6th Jul, 2022

Dial M for Murder - Kenilworth Talisman Theatre

Correspondent 31st Jan, 2017

Talisman Theatre, Kenilworth, until Saturday (February 4)

Review by Peter McGarry

Some old-style thrillers are timeless, to the point where even if you know the plot they are always fun to watch again.

This is one of them. And although it’s dated in every sense of the word, like all the works of Dame Agatha, it still has the power to pack in audiences.

Writer Frederick Knott’s ‘perfect murder’ theme is very 1950s in style, dialogue and characterisation. We wouldn’t want it any other way. At the same time it need not be dismissed as just another pot-boiler because, if handled with care and sensitivity, it can achieve a nice level of simmering tension and dark humour.

Sadly, this doesn’t happen here.

While we wait to see whether the complex plan of former tennis star Tony Wendice to dispose of his wife can be effectively carried out, an edge-of-seats atmosphere needs to be maintained. He should also convey a sense of roguish charm and fading elegance which, in other less murderous circumstances, might even render him likeable and certainly a cut above the people around him.

Without such subtleties, the play seems contrived and artificial

As things stand, we are left with the mechanics of the plot, clever enough in their own right, and a bunch of strictly cardboard characters who constantly fail to ignite.

Still, on a glass-half-full note, the undoubted star of the show is John Ellam’s superb set which is a striking example of artistic design lifting the conventional stage image of a middle-class domestic environment.

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