Retired tennis player Tony (Tom Chambers) hatches a plan to murder his society wife Margot (Diana Vickers) in revenge for her affair with film script writer Max (Michael Salami), requiring Inspector Hubbard (Christopher Harper) to investigate the ensuing proceedings. But that’s enough of the plot of this early genre-defining murder mystery – there are no spoilers here.
For a show that takes a telephony reference for its title – NB. for younger audience members, the letter M was included with the number 6 on an old-style telephone dial – it is no surprise that the telephone, positioned centre stage, has an important role in this play. A pity that the sound effect of the telephone ringing is rather underwhelming and that the too similar sound of the doorbell, on occasions, causes confusion.
All the action takes place in the living room of Tony and Margot’s Maida Vale flat (Designer David Woodhead). A large sofa takes up centre stage, the front door to the apartment at the rear and a pair of French windows to the side leading out past some fine-looking greenery into the sun-lit garden. It is up to Margot and the semi-undressed Max to set the scene for us. With a lot of narrative to get through, and whilst facing up-stage, some of Michael Salami’s diction is not completely clear. Diana Vickers’ performance is sublime. Her text is beautifully precise and, over the course of the evening, we see her turn convincingly through a range of emotions from the alluringly flirtatious to the hysterically distraught.
It is mentioned that Margot enjoys staying in to watch plays on TV, which is a nice touch as this play by Frederick Knott received its first public airing as an episode of BBC Sunday-Night Theatre back in 1952. It was Alfred Hitchcock’s 1954 film adaptation, with a BAFTA winning performance by Grace Kelly, that brought fame to the play and the lighting design (Lizzie Powell) pays homage to this with beautifully cast shadow effects onto the white walls. Another effect of dipping the central lighting in the room at particular moments in the narrative is less successful.
Director Anthony Banks moves his four actors around the stage – circumnavigating the central sofa – with skill and dexterity. Tom Chambers’ pointed features and angular movements lift his character directly from the pages of a graphic novel. If he doesn’t always appear callous enough for his proposed actions, there is one exquisitely foreboding moment as his false smile turns in slow motion into a rictus grin whilst an unseen clock ticks loudly down the seconds.
Christopher Harper, playing a double role, first appears as Captain Lesgate – suave and debonair but with a chequered history – before taking on the dogged figure of Inspector Hubbard. Played in the tradition of the all-knowing detective, Harper’s performance is compelling. With nervous energy and vocal trickery, the Inspector’s after-thoughts are, of course, the crux to detecting the calumny and the audience wills him on to uncover the truth.
This play is a most enjoyable light entertainment and, despite the word Murder in its title, an amiable drama with more than a few laughs and with only a little threat to the watching audience.
Reviewed by Phillip Money
Photography by Matt Cawrey
Dial M for Murder
Cambridge Arts Theatre until 9th October then UK Tour continues
Son of a Preacher Man today announces that X-factor finalist Diana Vickers will create the role of Kat for the 2017 tour of this heart-warming new musical. Featuring the soulful music of Dusty Springfield, with a book by Warner Brown and directed and choreographed by Craig Revel Horwood, Son of a Preacher Man embarks on a national tour starting at Bromley’s Churchill Theatre from Monday 4 September 2017.
Three broken hearts, one Soho hang-out, and the only man who could ever help them… Welcome to the Preacher Man, the swinging 1960s Soho joint where the kids danced the night away to the latest crazes and dared to dream of love, while the legendary owner, the Preacher Man himself, dispensed advice to cure the loneliest of hearts.
Only, that was a long time ago and all that remains are the memories, the stories and the myths. Until now, that is, when three random strangers, generations apart but all in need of help with their hopeless love lives, are inexplicably drawn to the site of the original venue. The Preacher Man is long gone, but his son, with help from the wonderful Cappuccino Sisters, might just find it in himself to channel the spirit of the Preacher Man and once more give these three lovesick strangers the look of love.
Featuring the greatest hits of Dusty Springfield, including “The Look Of Love”, “I Only Want To Be With You”, “Spooky” and of course, the classic “Son Of A Preacher Man”, this sparklingly funny and sweetly touching new musical by internationally renowned writer Warner Brown will have you laughing, crying and singing your heart out to some of the greatest songs ever written.
Diana Vickers first came to public attention as a semi-finalist on the X Factor and has made her professional acting debut in the title role of The Rise and Fall of Little Voice in 2009 (West End, Vaudeville Theatre). Since then her theatre credits have included The Duck House (West End, Vaudeville Theatre), Hatched ‘n’ Dispatched (Park Theatre), The Rocky Horror Show (UK Tour). Her film and television credits include The Perfect Wave, Awaiting, To Dream, Give Out Girls and Top Coppers.
Warner Brown works internationally and is well known for his work in musical theatre and straight plays, encompassing both traditional and avant-garde forms. He wrote ‘the most popular family show of all time’, the arena production Walking With Dinosaurs, creating an entirely new genre of theatrical presentation and winning many international awards.
Craig Revel Horwood is a well-known face on television in the UK and now internationally for his role as a judge on all fifteen series of BBC One’s Strictly Come Dancing and for directing and appearing as a judge in the Live Tour. Craig’s recent credits as director and choreographer include the current UK tour of Sister Act, the previous UK tours Brother Love Travelling Salvation Show and Chess; for television, How Do You Solve a Problem Like Maria? and Just the Two of Us; and for film, the feature film Paddington 2. In addition, he recently directed the all-star concert version of Stephen Sondheim’s Follies at the Royal Albert Hall.
Son of a Preacher Man
Book – Warner Brown Director & Choreographer – Craig Revel Horwood Set & Costume Designer – Morgan Large Musical Supervisor & Arrangements – Paul Herbert Lighting Designer – Richard G Jones Sound Designer – Richard Brooker Associate Director & Choreographer – David James Hulston Casting Director – Anne Vosser
Son of a Preacher Man is produced by Brian Berg, John Sachs, Andrew Berg & Kimberley Sachs for Eclipse Live, Michael Park for The Infinite Group, Paul Tyrer & Jamie Clark for TBO Productions, Churchill Theatre Bromley and executive producers Andrew Green and Ben White, all on behalf of Dusty Touring Ltd.