Dial M For Murder, written by Frederick Knott and directed by Ali Aasim, is a sensational start to the Players’ Theatre’s 2015-2016 season. Filled with moments of suspense and meaningful dialogue, the show keeps the audience guessing right until the final moment.
Set in New York City during the 1950’s, Dial M For Murder opens with Sheila Wendice (Eleonore Lamothe) and her lover, TV screenwriter Max Halliday (Jordan Pollock) discussing the elements that make up a good murder story. According to Max, the most important factor is motive, which usually arises from fear, jealousy, revenge or in order to protect someone you love. This gives the play its thematic framework, and throughout it, the desire for the truth gets wrapped up with discrepancies between fact and fiction.
Pollock’s consistent moments of comic relief balance out the classiness of the Grace Kelly-inspired performance of Lamothe, and when the story is complicated by the arrival of Sheila’s husband, Tony Wendice (Oskar Flemer), the actor shifts between the amiable and sinister sides of Tony with ease. Each character has a hidden agenda, and spends the duration of the show attempting to cover up something from their past or what they know about the other. Dial M For Murder brings to light the inconsistencies between the face that is shown to the world, and the truth that remains hidden behind the facade.
Throughout the show, these secrets fail to remain hidden, despite their keepers’ best intentions. Tony becomes aware of Sheila’s affair with Max, and, jealous of their illicit relationship and greed for Sheila’s money, plans to murder Sheila. Tony is a master at manipulating the people around him and regards crime as a hobby. He calls his old friend from university, Captain Lesgate (Alastair Pitts) with the false pretense that he wants to purchase a car. Tony then promises Lesgate $1,000 to carry out the murder, as long as Lesgate will do it exactly according to Tony’s plan.
When things do not go as easily as he hoped they would, Tony finds himself relying on his wit alone as his master plan unravels. Ultimately, Tony’s dark side dominates as he tries to fool the law, resorting to blackmail and deception. Inspector Hubbard (Cain Humeniuk) is responsible for piecing together the elaborate puzzle, which he does with a sense of humour. The play culminates with a satisfying reveal of who knows what as the balance of power between criminal and victim is altered. Overall, however, it would have added more depth to the performance to see some variation to Lamothe’s portrayal of Sheila. While at times when she was reactive to what was happening, there were moments where the audience seemed to be rooting for Sheila; hoping that she would stand up for her version of the truth.
Dial M For Murder observes the relationship between greed, luck, love, and the ultimate price people have to pay in order to get what they want. It is a psychological discourse on individuals and the motives behind their actions.
In essence, Dial M For Murder provides a commentary on how to get away with murder, filled with suspense and ironies framed by the essential query on how one would write the perfect murder. The story comes full circle as the coincidences in life allow events to take an unexpected turn, revealing how sometimes the truth is indeed unbelievable.
Dial M For Murder is showing from Oct. 21-24 at 8 p.m. at Players’ Theatre (3600 rue McTavish) located on the third floor of the SSMU Building. Student tickets cost $6.