Review: Dial M for Murder at HLT

Tony Wendice (David Steadman) and Captain Lesgate (Arthur Young) on set. Photo supplied

When director Alex Gleed described Howick Little Theatre’s latest play as a psychological thriller with lots of subtext, I wondered if I’d be able to keep up.

I tend to be that person who’s constantly asking questions through movies and sometimes I find my mind wandering – especially after a long day at work.

But I needn’t have worried. From the moment the lights dimmed on Wednesday night, I was enthralled.

The set, the acting, the storyline – it all worked together to create a masterpiece and I loved every moment of it.

Dial M for Murder revolves around Tony Wendice (David Steadman) and his wife, Sheila (Anna Baird). It’s a bit of a marriage of convenience for Tony, an ex-professional tennis player who is really only after his wife’s money.

After discovering Sheila may be about to leave him for another man – and thus removing all hopes of his claim to fortune – Tony hatches a cunning plan to have her killed, which of course goes hilariously wrong.

However, a good director can only do so much without a stellar cast to direct and luckily this play had both.

The cast was small but outstanding. From the moment Tony walked on stage, I instantly hated the arrogance of the character – never before have I felt such a strong energy from an actor’s entrance in a live theatre performance and boy was I impressed.

This arrogance contrasted nicely with Baird’s innocent portrayal of Sheila, who of course comes out worse off after her husband’s failed murder plot of which she remains blissfully unaware. With so many strong character personalities in the play, Baird did a great job of playing the submissive, clueless wife caught up in her husband’s evil plot.

Richard De Luca holds the role of Sheila’s male companion, Max Halliday, a renowned crime writer whose literary experience ends up foiling Tony’s last ditch attempt at getting his hands on Sheila’s money. De Luca pulled off the unlikely hero of a character without a hitch.

With so much tension in the plot there was a desperate need for comic relief which came frequently in the form of Captain Lesgate (Arthur Young) in the first half of the play and Chief Inspector Hubbard in the second (easily my favourite character and played by Barrie Graham). Both were played extremely well and responsible for many audience giggles.

The play flowed seamlessly  and I found myself constantly nervous and wanting to know what happens next.

Is there a happy ending? In the interests of keeping you on the edge of your seat, you’ll have to go and see for yourself. I guarantee it is well worth the watch.