A good old game of murder


The Madras Players has chosen Dial M For Murder for its PG13 theatrical debut

When was the last time you watched a detective put together the pieces of a nice, juicy murderous puzzle? When last were you hooked to each and every detail of a narrative, not knowing which unassuming gesture or movement would prove to be the key to the mystery in the end? With The Madras Players’ latest production, you can revisit that thrill.

Director Shaan Katari Libby picks Frederick Knott’s famous script Dial M For Murder, and sets it in the 1990s. So you can look forward to a Chrisite-esque setting, complete with French windows, coat tracks and rotary phones, all of which play an essential part in the plot.

However, Knotts’ play — eventually adapted by BBC for the small screen and by Alfred Hitchcock for the larger one — differs from Christie in one fundamental aspect: there’s no mystery to the murder. The audience is in the know right from the point when the crime is plotted.

The narrative is a sequential one, taking the audience through plot point by plot point, twists and all. So, the fun lies not in the mystery of it, but in the thrill of seeing whether the antagonist gets away with it.

Which is why, in terms of keeping the audience on the edge of their seat, the cast bears a larger share of the responsibility than they might in a regular detective play. Libby has cast her actors accordingly: Niloufer Seth Siddharth plays protagonist Sheila Wendice while Gibran Osman essays the role of ever-likeable lover Max Halliday and Yohan Chacko plays antagonist-husband Tony Wendice.

Tehzeeb Katari plays Detective Hubbard, the brain that cracks the mystery — no, that’s not a spoiler, Katari quite literally wears the pants in the play right from her entry. The role of Captain CJ Swann is essayed by PC Ramakrishna, while Shankar Sundaram plays Sergeant Thompson and Gayatri Krishnaswami plays a BBC presenter.

The most complex character is that of Tony Wendice, and Chacko is excited about the scope of the role. “I always play the bad guy, and Wendice’s character just fails on all counts” he says, adding, “He’s always thinking. That wild cunning is constantly running through his mind.” Wendice thinking on his feet, and staying ahead of everyone who tries to get close to the truth, is essentially what most of the thrill in the play consists of. Hence, Chacko is constantly reacting and responding, even in the most subtle situations, in a way that’s a treat to watch even during rehearsals.

Sheila Wendice is another intriguing character, described aptly by The Guardian as “refrigerated poise” in its review of Hitchcock’s 3D release of the film. “She’s quite a gal,” says Siddharth about her role, before the cast plunges into a discussion about whether the character is good, bad, likeable or otherwise. It’s an interesting question, and you’ll have to watch the play to make up your mind on it.

Dial M For Murder will be staged at Museum Theatre, Egmore on March 2, 3 and 4. The play is for viewers aged 13 years and older. For passes, contact 9381911977.

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Printable version | Jan 27, 2020 5:35:57 PM |

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