DIAL M for Murder is coming to Aylesbury Waterside Theatre. Actor Christopher Timothy talks about the joy of being in a good show, which is not always the case for an actor.
The 73-year-old is probably best known for playing James Herriot in the long running series, All Creatures Great and Small.
But he has had many different roles throughout his career- on stage and on our screens.
For the time being he is tarring as Inspector Hubbard in Frederick Knott’s intense and darkly gripping thriller, Dial M for Murder, famously filmed by Alfred Hitchcock.
Alongside him Daniel Betts plays Captain Lesgate, Philip Cairns plays Max Halliday, Kelly Hotten plays Sheila Wendice and Robert Perkins plays Tony Wendice.
The well known show is directed by Lucy Bailey, who has given it a fresh look.
Christopher said: "Some people know the film anyway. Some people have seen previous productions. There had been quite a few over the last few years.
"This is completely different. It is very filmic.
"People seem to think it is the best they have seen of these productions and some have seen several."
He said the design and the sound effects are something special.
The story follows Tony, who is convinced his wife is having an affair. The audience watch mesmerised at Tony’s precision in planning what must surely be the perfect murder… until it falters in the most unexpected way.
Christopher said when he was first offered the job, he wondered if it was a bit old hat.
But once he saw the script and spoke to Lucy Bailey, he realised it was anything but. He said the rehearsal period was extraordinary.
The stage revolves slowly, and the play takes place in one room, so the audience see every part of the show.
He said: "I think it is inspired. There are quite a lot of phone calls made.
"In this production you can hear the people on the other end.
"You can't quite hear- you don't hear every syllable or every word."
Dial M for Murder has been performed many times, but this gives a fresh look on it, he said.
Christopher added: "I saw it once when I was about 10, when it first came up in the early 50s. I really enjoy it.
"I remember thinking the part of the detective was interesting. I thought Grace Kelly was stunningly beautiful.
"And that's all I remember about it."
Alfred Hitchcock made it into a film in 1954, and Christopher greatly admires the film director.
He said: "I just think he is one of the greatest film directors of all time.
"This Dial for Murder is absolutely not his best film for quite a long stitch.
"There's Psycho, Vertigo- one of James Stewart's best performances of his career.
"North by Northwest was very exciting with Cary Grant.
"Strangers on a Train, which was very successful in London as a play. It started life as a screenplay."
Christopher trained at the Central School of Speech and Drama where he was awarded the John Gielgud Scholarship and the Laurence Olivier Prize, and went to Broadway in Chips with Everything, which he said wasn't a great play but a great production.
He said he has great memories playing James Herriot and he has also starred as Mac McGuire in the BBC daily drama series Doctors.
But he is also very at home on stage, where he said the success of a show is largely down to the vision of the director.
He said: "I have done some real rubbish in my time with third rate plays. Some things have been much more successful than they should be.
"I do jobs mainly cos I need to work- actually that is not fair to say.
"But sometimes I think I don't think this is very good but I will do it anyway.
"But sometimes I am surprised."
The best moment in his career, he said, was playing Jesus in The York Mystery Plays in 1981.
He said: "That was incredible. The whole experience was something I had never experiences before.
"There was a cast of 300. ON the last night I was doing something like the sermon on the mount.
"In the next scene the whole cast comes onstage. As I moved through the crowd I realised there were faces I didn't recognise.
"The reason I didn't was about 30 to 40 people, who had not got past the audition, had made their own costumes and turned up for the last performance.
"It absolutely didn't spoil it. That was a great experience.
"I am not religious but I don't think you can argue with that fact it is the greatest story every told, whether based on religious facts or not. Historically it is accurate-ish."
Christopher recently appeared in the West End as Lobb in Pinter’s The Hot House directed by Jamie Lloyd and as Father James in The Living Room. Both of which he enjoyed.
He added: "I am not sure the West End is quite the catch it used to be.
"I don't know whether I am right in that feeling. But it is great to be there."
Dial M for Murder is at the Aylesbury Waterside Theatre from April 8 to 12 at 7.30pm, with a Thursday and Saturday matinee at 2.30pm. Tickets are £11.90 to £35.40, with a £2.85 booking fee, from 0844 8717627 or go to www.atgtickets.com/aylesbury.
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