IT’S no wonder that legendary film director Alfred Hitchcock snapped up Frederick Knott’s knife edge tale the moment he clapped eyes on it writes John Phillpott.

For this is a rollercoaster ride of a thriller with more twists and turns than the murky lane that leads up to Norman Bates’ motel.

And true to the genre, sound designer Mic Pool even creates some chilling Psycho-style effects to accompany the inevitable dastardly deeds.

Trouble is that Malvern was also adding its own sound effects on the first night, contributing a cacophony of coughing, nervous self-conscious laughter, and various other assorted grunts and splutters.

What on earth was going on? It was like being stuck on a coach packed with geriatric children on a day trip to Wicksteed Park and all the while being forced to suffer the childishly oblivious behaviour one would expect from juveniles rather than a grown-up audience.

Nevertheless, Daniel Betts as cuckold Tony Wendice quickly establishes his sinister credentials, exuding a conspiratorial menace that manages to somehow cut through the aforesaid bronchial onslaught.

His dodgy former school friend Captain Lesgate (Robert Perkins) is soon bludgeoned into playing ball with the ruthless Wendice, out to wreak vengeance on his cheating wife Sheila, played with wonderful 1950s poise and debutante elegance by Kelly Hotten.

Meanwhile, Philip Cairns as the philandering Max Halliday, deftly treads the narrow line that separates decent chap from utter cad, all of which neatly sets the scene for the arrival of Inspector Hubbard.

Christopher Timothy’s relentless demolition job takes time to gather pace, but once his wrecking ball gets in the swing of things, time begins to run out for the guilty party.

Special mention should also be made of fight director Philip d’Orleans’ handling of a disturbingly violent scene which once again evokes images of Psycho, eerily echoing the never-to-be-forgotten shower sequence.

Dial M For Murder runs until Saturday and shouldn’t be missed. Just make sure the cough lozenges are to hand.