Dial M for Murder (4 stars)

Dial M for Murder

Photo: Manuel Harlan

An elegant restaging of Hitchcock’s classy thriller

Alfred Hitchcock’s 1954 film adaptation of Dial M for Murder is undoubtedly the best-remembered version of Frederick Knotts’s script, although the thriller was a successful stage play and BBC TV production prior to that. In Hitch’s version, Ray Milland is the scheming husband who enlists the help of an old school friend to murder his unfaithful wife (Grace Kelly).

Lucy Bailey’s production may not have the killer combo of Milland and Kelly, but Daniel Betts and Kelly Hotten are worthy substitutes. Hotten particularly comes into her own in the second act, while Betts has a grand old time sparring verbally with his opponents: Robert Perkins and Christopher Timothy are excellent as the murderous school friend and homocide investigator respectively, although Philip Cairns (filling the role of Hotten’s crime-writer lover) is a bit wooden in his over-enunciated BBC Scotland delivery.

The most striking feature of the production is Mike Britton’s set, a blood-red living room that subtly rotates whenever a sense of threat arises. While this leaves the audience in an apt state of mild disorientation – you never know where the danger’s going to come from – the characters waltz through the moving furniture gracefully. Combined with a light jazz soundtrack and Knott’s intricately designed plot, the result is an elegance that belies the brutal nature of the plot; a contrasting light and darkness of which Hitchcock would have whole-heartedly approved.

King’s Theatre, Edinburgh, until Sat 22 Feb.

Dial M for Murder: Theatre Talk

An insightful talk about the play.

Dial M For Murder

  • Directed by: Lucy Bailey
  • Written by: Frederick Knott

Frederick Knott's dark thriller, made famous by the Alfred Hitchcock film.