Frederick Knott’s 1954 stage thriller, so famously adapted in Alfred Hitchock’s Hollywood film, is rivetingly brought back to the stage at the Theatre Royal Windsor by director Sean Mathias in this hair raising production. This quite dark, harrowing yet entertaining play with its moments of shock has the audience spellbound throughout.

We see Tony Wendice’s cunning attempt to get away with murdering his wealthy wife, Margot, having discovered her affair with their apparent ‘friend’ Max Halliday. Unwilling to do the deed himself, Tony ruthlessly blackmails poor old school acquaintance ‘Captain’ Lesgate into doing his dirty work for him. Of course we know he’ll never get away with it, and are thrilled as we are taken through the story of how his intricate planning of the seemingly perfect murder turns into a nightmare, as light gradually shines through the increasingly tattered holes in Tony’s story.

Credit must be given to Ben Nealon with his ferocious portrayal of the psychotic, vengeful husband. He certainly came over as angry and controlling as he attempted to be rid of his cheating partner, Margot, who is played by Carley Stenson as a little more grounded and mature than Grace Kelly’s film portrayal. Paul Nicholls as Hubbard is excellent as the deductive detective who manages to work out the truth of the case.

The costumes and set convincingly convey the era of 70 years ago, with large sports jackets and carefully oiled and combed back hair. The set had few similarities to the rather more suave apartment of the Hitchcock movie, the bare and rather downbeat decor transmitting a cold and bleak feeling to the audience, which although it sat well with the ruthless and chilling storyline, perhaps seemed a little at odds with characters such as these, whom we might expect to find in more well to do parts of London.

Despite the familiarity that many will have with this story, this is a thoroughly engaging production that won’t disappoint fans of stage thrillers, and I think the departing audience were left with the need to double check their doors were locked on their way to bed.