Home / Drama / Agatha Christie’s The Mousetrap – Mayflower Theatre, Southampton

Agatha Christie’s The Mousetrap – Mayflower Theatre, Southampton

Writer: Agatha Christie

Director: Iain Watt-Smith

Reviewer: Kerri Peck

[Rating:3.5]

 

The Mousetrap is famous around the world for being the longest running show of any kind in the history of British theatre – with almost 25,000 performances it’s a play to be proud of. To celebrate 60 incredible years on stage, it’s going on tour for the first time, with a star cast to give you a once in a life-time opportunity to see this masterpiece here at The Mayflower Theatre.

In her own inimitable style, Dame Agatha Christie has created an atmosphere of shuddering suspense and a brilliantly intricate plot where murder lurks around every corner. The touring cast and crew play their parts superbly keeping the institution that audiences have come to expect of an Agatha Christie production alive and well and truly burning.

The beautifully crafted set brings you right into the heart of Wormswell Manor Guest House where we meet married couple Giles (Bruno Langley) and Mollie (Jemma Walker) who are opening the doors of their country house to paying guests for the first time and meet their unusual combination of guests but they have no idea of the events which are about to unfold.

They are joined by a very cranky and opinionated Mrs Boyle (Jan Waters), the mysterious Major Metcalf (Graham Seed) and a modern and strong Miss Casewell (Clare Wilkie). We also have the fantastically eccentric character Christopher Wren, played by Steven France, who gets the crowd laughing by being a very quirky and an extroverted misfit. Yet when it comes to eccentrics, the surprise guest, Mr Paravicini, stands as strong competition. Karl Howman performs this rôle with fantastic timing and charisma, never missing an opportunity to exaggerate Mr Paravicini’s comical European characteristics and there we have an eclectic lineup of murder suspects.

This rather unusual group of people are then confined to the house as they are cut off by the snow. But against the odds Detective Sergeant Trotter (Thomas Howes) arrives at the manor advising the guests and owners of the potential danger they are all in. There is a murderer within their midst but with his protection and police skills he aims to unmask the perpetrator before they can strike again. Who can it be?

One by one the suspicious characters reveal their sordid pasts with many twists and turns that the audience sits wondering as to whom the murderer could be. Any one of the guests seems to fit the bill until the last moment when we are finally enlightened and the murderer is unmasked. Obviously I would never share that information with you as we have all sworn to secrecy the outcome of Agatha Christie’s The Mousetrap – you will just have to go and see for yourself!

Runs until Saturday 10th November 2012

 

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2 comments

  1. Avatar

    we went to see this on monday 5 th Nov and even though we were in the front stalls, had difficulty in hearing the actors, especially when they turned away from the front of the stage. We are not hard of hearing and have never had this problem before when we have visited the Mayflower or indeed any other theatre and it really spoilt the evening.

  2. Avatar

    (I am not going to reveal the murderer, but I am going to criticise the plot)

    I agree with Lluck. We also saw this at the Mayflower, and it was quite hard to hear the dialogue at times.

    That however, was not an issue, because the plot was thin, and to me at least it was entirely obvious who the murderer was going to be from a few minutes in.

    The play to me seems to owe a great deal to JB Priestley’s An Inspector Calls. I would heartily recommend anyone find a good production of An Inspector Calls rather than watch The Mousetrap. Having checked online once I returned home, I wished to find out which showed first. Watching the play led me to wonder whether The Mousetrap was a pale shadow of a previously performed An Inspector Calls, or whether Priestley had seen The Mousetrap and thought he could write something much better using similar plot devices?

    It turns out that I am certainly not the first to observe the similarities. It also turns out that An Inspector calls first showed in 1946 in the the UK (1945 in Russia).

    While The Mousetrap didn’t open in the West End until 1952, it was first aired hot on the heels of An Inspector Calls in May 1947 as a short radio play broadcast in honour of Queen Mary, the consort of King George V.

    As the play reached its denouement, I am amused to note that there was no gasp of shock amongst the audience, no collective intake of breath , just a slight ripple of disappointment, as if to say “Was that it?! Hardly worth the ticket price was it?”

    I had been really looking forward to the play, expecting a really intriguing “whodunnit”. However, it struck me that for modern audiences who are daily served up with a variety of detective stories and crime stories, that The Mousetrap finds it hard to measure up, even to televised versions of other Agatha Christie works such as mysteries involving Miss Marple or Inspector Poirot. I would watch an episode of Midsomer Murders over the Mousetrap any day.

    I can only surmise that the only reason that this play has survived so long is that people are asked not to disclose the ending so as not to spoil it for others.

    Fair enough, I hate spoilers. But I also think that if the play is somewhat weak, people should be made aware of this! I largely paid to see this because I thought it must be a good play having run for 60 odd years. I now realise that its long run must owe a great deal making a big deal of the mystique around the ending not being revealed.

    After all, many of us read detective novels and watch detective programmes on the television frequently. What matters is whether it is a good yarn or not. If it is a really good story, we are happy to watch it more than once, even knowing the ending.

    I would certainly not ever be tempted to go and watch The Mousetrap for a second time. I think the start it had as a short story / radio play must be what limits its narrative breadth as compared to many other productions of Agatha Christie that grace our screens.

    There were some good points. The cast did a good job with what seemed to me a thin script. I liked the feeling that one had walked back into the 1950’s – the set was suitably dull, yet of its day. Seeing the guests arriving at the guest house, you had a clear sense that this was a world before the invention of Television, a world in which not much happened, a land which should have been fit for heroes, but instead was still blighted by rationing. I imagine the inclusion of an Italian character had somewhat more resonance hot on the heels of World War II than it does today.

    I was mystified by the few lines of dialogue after the murderer had been caught – again this seemed very weak, almost like a child had written it. A murderer has been caught, yet immediately afterwards you feel you have been dumped back into fifties tedium with nothing much going on… a land where as a child you could read the cartoons on a Sunday morning if you were lucky, while Father sat and read the papers while smoking his pipe, and mother did her best to conjure up a meat pie from the meagre rations.

    I am not against period pieces, they can be excellent. I would contrast this with this year’s simply excellent Chichester Festival Theatre production of Noel Coward’s Private Lives starring Anna Chancellor, Toby Stephens,and Anthony Calf, which was one of the finest pieces of theatre that I have ever seen.