Sheffield Lyceum thriller Dial M for Murder starring Tom Chambers kills the suspense with laughs

The problem with Dial M for Murder at the Lyceum Theatre, Sheffield is it doesn’t know whether to take itself seriously.

Wednesday, 20th October 2021, 8:45 am

The show is billed as a seat-gripping thriller but the quirkiness of the production effectively does away with this. Characters occasionally break out into dance moves – and not just former Strictly winner Tom Chambers – or make strangely elaborate gestures.

The story, which is familiar if you have seen the 1950 Hitchcock film, revolves around Tom Chambers’ character, ex-tennis star Tony Wendice, who blackmails a dodgy former schoolfriend into agreeing to murder his wife, Margot (Diana Vickers), who is having an affair with crime writer Max (Michael Salami).

The scene where Wendice entraps his friend is full of sexual tension – it’s clear he’s getting his kicks out of the plan, too.

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Tom Chambers and Christopher Harper in Dial M for Murder at the Lyceum Theatre, Sheffield

Everything goes wrong when Margot manages to kill her assailant in self-defence, forcing Wendice to try to cover his tracks. The twists come as he has to out-think the police and trick them into thinking Margot wasn’t acting in self-defence but was a blackmail victim taking revenge.

There’s nothing wrong with the acting – the murder scene is done pretty well – and Christopher Hubbard does an exceptional job doubling up as the hired killer and Police Inspector Hubbard. That’s one twist I missed until I checked the cast list afterwards.

Tom Chambers is convincing as a sociopath who can turn on the suave charm but occasionally lets the mask slip in public to show thinly-veiled menace underneath.

Diana Vickers as Margot in Dial M for Murder at the Lyceum Theatre, Sheffield

Diana Vickers captures the fragility of a woman who has undergone a terrible ordeal but has a worse one to come when the noose begins to tighten around her neck – the play is set in the 1960s when capital punishment was still legal. Max is touching as a man in love who is desperate to save her from the gallows.

It was a clever touch to show the police officer’s hostility towards Max because he is played by a black actor.

The action flows well and, if the show wasn’t played for laughs, it might have deserved its claim to be a ‘masterclass in suspense’. The only time I was on edge of my seat was wondering which of the dodgy lights on set would come on at the wrong time.