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Dial M For Murder

King's Theatre, Edinburgh
Four stars
The scarlet drapes that hang down centre-stage surrounded by even more 
vivid rouge-flamed walls hide a multitude of sins at the start of Lucy 
Bailey's touring revival of her 2009 production of Frederick Knott's 
labyrinthine 1950s pot-boiler immortalised in Alfred Hitchcock's film. 
Such ravishing décor might well be engulfing an opulently realised 
Greek tragedy if it weren't for the elegant London town-house 
accoutrements and a tellingly red telephone that screams emergency as 
it furnishes the scene of the crime.

That crime isn't one of passion, but, as retired tennis star Tony 
Wendice plots to murder his faithless wife Sheila, who, as played by 
Kelly Hotten, has been conducting a long-distance amour with Philip 
Cairns' crime writer Max, it's one of pathologically driven, ice-cold 
calculation. That Tony blackmails an old school chum turned con-man to 
do the deed by proxy only serves to make it nastier, as though the 
flesh and blood of such an action is something Daniel Betts' flint-eyed 
Tony finds physically repulsive. When things go wrong, it takes 
Christopher Timothy's Inspector Hubbard to find the key that makes 
sense of the affair.

While it's hard at times to take Knott's stiff upper-lipped exchanges 
seriously, casting Max as a crime writer lends things a self-reflexive 
edge that's easy to theatricalise. At times the action is half-hidden 
by the slowly revolving and exquisitely choreographed drapes. During 
the murder scene, meanwhile, Mic Pool's brooding, trumpet-led 
underscore ups the volume to become something more jagged, with 
Sheila's amplified gasps blending in with stabbing staccato passages 
worthy of Bernard Herrmann in a psycho-sexual thriller in which the 
tension is heightened to the max.

The Herald, February 21st 2014

ends




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