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Dial M For Murder - The Little Theatre Review

Reviewed by Emma Bamford
Tickets were gifted in return for an honest review

Tony Wendice wants to off his philandering wife, Sheila, and hires a man named Lesgate to do it. A murder definitely takes place, but is it the one Tony wanted?

Photo by Mary Jayne Harding Scott

This performance is a pretty solid production of Frederick Knott’s 1952 thriller, turned into a Hitchcock film two years later starring Grace Kelly. The action all takes places in one room of a swanky Maida Vale flat, potentially a nightmare to direct (not least for the long scenes of verbose exposition), but Mary Jones pulls it off with aplomb. We’re introduced first to Sheila Wendice (played by Amber Goddard) and her not-so-secret boyfriend, murder mystery writer Max Halliday (Sam White). Both Goddard and White master the characters, heartbreakingly practical about their circumstances. Goddard is a little one-note at times, but she’s hampered by a script which doesn’t give her much to do, aside from cry prettily in a corner. Still, you do feel for her. She only wants to be happy.

Andy Longley-Brown is fantastic as despicable sleazebag Tony, cheerfully admitting how he married his wife for her money and that he wants nothing more than to kill her off. His reactions each time he’s outwitted ( … or is he?) are a joy to watch. Paul Large handles the character of Lesgate perfectly, bringing energy and life to his scenes as he fumbles with the idea of murdering a woman he’s never met to avoid being blackmailed. Our final character turning up to unravel the whole mess is Inspector Hubbard, beautifully played by Adam Jones. Each question, each “a-ha!” moment is delivered with the impeccable delivery of a man who’s not about to be bested by a cocky amateur (looking at you, Tony).
There is another character appearing, Thompson (played by Tobias Garner), Hubbard’s junior officer. It’s a very thankless role with nothing for Garner to do until the last 20 minutes of the play but it does seem that Garner is having a great time!
The Little Theatre has a deservedly good reputation for its sets and costume but as far as I am concerned, this production blows all others out of the water. Gemma Greaves has designed a deceptively simple set, with incredible “wallpaper” – which I later found out was hand-stencilled – and a movable back wall that creates a claustrophobic feeling as the show goes on and the net tightens around Tony.  The sound and lighting are also absolutely fantastic, really adding to the tension – kudos to lighting designers Jenny Harding and Martin Scott, and sound designers Stew Wale and Tim Neville. Without these elements in place, the show wouldn’t be half as good as it was. John Bale has equally outdone himself with Goddard’s costumes, with an opening scene gown that must have taken the majority of the costume budget. The sound, lighting and costume really all come together when Inspector Hubbard arrives for the first time; framed in the red light of the stairway, Jones cuts a dashing figure in his hat and suit.

Photo by Mary Jayne Harding Scott

I went into this production knowing the basic plot and fully accepting that the play is a product of its time but hadn’t fully realised the extent to which the main character (you can argue that Tony is the lead, but Sheila is the focal point around which all of the action happens) is gaslit by a room full of men. Refusing to accept that she was assaulted the way she said she was is eerily reminiscent of some of the issues going on in the world today. The entire interrogation made me very uncomfortable. I’m not sure if it’s the fact that I’m female, or the fact that we as the audience know that Sheila is telling the truth and are getting angry on her behalf.
Summing it all up, it was a very good production. The play itself is unnecessarily wordy and LONG, and Knott could have done with a brutal editor slashing unneeded paragraphs, but it doesn’t take away from the story too much. If you want to catch everything that’s said, you will need to listen carefully. There was some melodrama from one or two members of the cast but overall, no weak links. Fans of brain-twisting murder mysteries will delight in it!
‘Dial M for Murder’ is on at The Little Theatre until Saturday 9th March. Tickets are available from

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