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Dial M For Murder. Grabbed By The Narrative
Richard Trinder, Editor
A frame from the Hitchock version of Dial M for Murder. Warner Home Video
Fredrick Knott's Dial M For Murder has been resurrected and given a polish of British stiff upper lip by Harrogate Theatre's new Rep. company.

This is the rep's second outing - just last week saw their hilarious début in Boeing Boeing - 'Dial M' is quite a different proposition. Almost from the opposite polar end of the theatrical repertoire, this is a finely constructed exposé of a carefully planned murder. Lovers of Scandi Noir, will fall for Dial M. It has all the intrigue but with the added layer of charm and manners than are (were?) synonymous with being British.

If you, like me, have only to leave the radio on at the start of an afternoon play, and you 'accidentally' hear the first minute, then you are condemned to spend the next hour listening to the whole affair. Such is the power of a strong narrative.

Dial M fits perfectly into that 'grabbed by the narrative' mould. At Harrogate Theatre last night I could hear the audience passing through the first minute of the play; from the 'go on, entertain me' phase, passing rapidly into 'oh, that's interesting' and finally the tertiary 'now I'm completely hooked, please tell me more'. This is the pure delight phase where the actors merely need to ride the wave, gently unveil the plot twists and coast home secure in the knowledge of a job well done.

And thus it was at Harrogate. With another strong performance from the rep. company, Katy Dean (Sheila) swapped her vampish Italian of Boeing Boeing to a clipped upper-middle class southern British brogue. Marcus Hutton, as Max, played a rather debonair love interest (and a fine job as the sound designer). Undoubtedly he was Sheila's safe option when compared to her husband - and thoroughly bad person - Tony Wendice - played with devilish charm by Louis Tamone.

Fortunately for us all Inspector Hubbard (played by John Hester) was on hand to unravel the mysteries surrounding the untimely death of one Captain Lesgate (Phil Stewart): a rather stupid man who, frankly, had it coming.

The great Inspector Hubbard moment comes when we realise that he has finally solved the crime. The clearly captivated audience greeted this with a charmingly whispered 'YES'. And that said it all; a great play, delightfully played, a splendid evening out. My neighbours in the audience, up from Kent for the Flower Show, will be even happier that they spent some time in Harrogate.

Dial M For Murder. Grabbed By The Narrative, 12th September 2018, 8:23 AM