20 March 2023
It seems inconceivable that a play could still be running in London’s West End after 70 years (albeit with a lengthy gap during the Covid pandemic) – even the author couldn’t fathom the reasons for it and she passed away nearly 50 years ago! ‘The Mousetrap’ is a phenomenon. The London production was supplemented, only in recent years, with a national UK tour, the current one of which is continuing at least for the next 11 months.
It is widely believed that the reason for the longevity of the play in London is that it is tourists who keep it going, though this isn’t necessarily the case and when it plays to packed houses in venues around the country even less so. The British passion for whodunnit’s and, particularly, for Agatha Christie continue unabated.
The real secret to ‘The Mousetrap’ is, of course, the name of the perpetrator of the crimes about which the audience is always sworn to secrecy, but there is no doubting that what draws people to the play in their droves is that it is a good story, well told. Multiple viewings can still make one sit back and admire the ingenuity of the writer. Like Arthur Conan Doyle, Christie was a fan of the backstory – something which happened in the past which has a major influence on something happening in the here and now of the play. It is the drip, drip feed of that backstory which gradually allows the layers of the mystery to be removed and the culprit uncovered. In this play it is so very cleverly done.
Christie establishes one her favourite scenarios; a closed location where people cannot come or go, so whoever done it, must be there – think ‘Murder on the Orient Express’ or ‘And Then There Were None’. A remote guest house, cut off by snow, two hosts and some residents. A murder……
Joelle Dyson and Laurence Pears are the new, fairly clueless, owners of Monkswell Manor; theirs are the rather less interesting characters and offer performances which feel rather forced and unnatural. Fairing rather better and stealing the show for the most part is the camp confection that is Christopher Wren; a wonderfully idiosyncratic performance from Elliot Clay – he grabs at every chance he has and turns out a cracking and very funny turn. Gwyneth Strong patently enjoys being the grumpy, deeply unpleasant Mrs Boyle and Todd Carty bumbles effectively as Major Metcalf. Essie Barrow is very good as the cold and calculating Miss Casewell and Joseph Reed is excellent as the diligent and overactive Sergeant Trotter. Vying with Elliot Clay for laughs is Kieran Brown who revels in playing the oily, mysterious and louche Mr Paravicini – a high-pitched giggle here, a wink there – it’s an irresistible performance.
All the characters carry secrets – no one is above suspicion, such is the beauty of Christie
Under the direction of Ian Talbot and Denise Silvey, the play moves at a pace and there are no unnecessary pauses or longueurs and the cast travel about the wonderfully appointed set with great ease. Lighting and sound all play their part in creating great atmosphere and giving the audience a thoroughly entertaining evening.
What more can be said about ‘The Mousetrap’? It seems utterly unlikely that it’s popularity will ever fade. There will always an audience who has never seen it and there will always be one who want to see it multiple times. It isn’t high-brow theatre, it is theatre for pure entertainment and it achieves that perfectly.
It will return again and again because audiences love ‘The Mousetrap’.
CAST & CREATIVES
MOLLIE RALSTON – JOELLE DYSON
GILES RALSTON – LAURENCE PEARS
CHRISTOPHER WREN – ELLIOT CLAY
MRS BOYLE – GWYNETH STRONG
MAJOR METCALF – TODD CARTY
MISS CASEWELL – ESSIE BARROW
MR PARAVICINI – KIERAN BROWN
DETECTIVE SGT TROTTER – JOSEPH REED
WRITER – AGATHA CHRISTIE
DIRECTORS – IAN TALBOT & DENISE SILVEY
COSTUME SUPERVISOR – CAROLINE HANNAM
LIGHTING DESIGN – SONIC HARRISON
SOUND DESIGN – MIKE THACKER
SET CONSTRUCTION – SPLINTER SCENERY
IMAGE – MATT CROCKETT