Writer: Agatha Christie
Director: Ian Watt-Smith
Reviewer: Fran Beaton
The Mousetrap is a British institution. Part of our theatrical scene for sixty years now, Agatha Christie’s most famous murder mystery is celebrating its sixtieth year on stage with a regional tour. Everyone should see The Mousetrap. It might not be the most compelling of scripts, the most intelligent of plot twists, or the most vibrant of productions but everyone wants to be par to those knowing conversations about who dun’ it.
And so the regional tour is a good thing. It looks like it has been lifted directly out of the West End. The set is the same; Ian Watt-Smith’s direction is the same; all in all, the production is safe but effective.
The murder mystery takes place in a guest house recently opened by Mr. and Mrs. Ralston. The couple (Henry Luxemburg and Joanna Croll) are well matched and convincing in their naivety, despite Luxemburg’s performance verging on camp at times. Of the guests, Ryan Saunders’ performance as hyper-energetic Christopher Wren is great fun to watch and Karl Howman, playing the enigmatic Mr. Paravicini, is intriguingly sinister. A highlight is Jonathan Woolf’s portrayal of Detective Sergeant Trotter. He manages a perfect passivity with his interrogation style, letting the other strongly written characters shine through. Yet in doing this, his performance adds necessary relief alongside the parade of eccentrics.
Distracting from the competent performances are problems with the sound levels. Background noise is a frequent issue as are the microphones failing to be turned up in time for opening lines. The balance is inaccurate. Howman’s microphone is turned up so loud in his first entrance that his accent is overwhelming while Ellie Jacob’s entrance, as Miss Casewell, is nearly impossible to hear. Across the tour, one would hope these technical hitches will be ironed out.
Ultimately, The Mousetrap has been running for sixty years for a reason: the audience enjoys the complicity with the murderer. As with the West End performance, one of the characters steps forward after the curtain call to request your silence regarding the identity of the murderer. For this reason, it will continue to run. And for this reason everyone should go see it. This production is as good as any will be: it tells a decent story with consummate performances. It is accessible and enjoyable. It might not break theatrical taboos, push at conventions or make any sort of statement but it is a great night out and is something that everyone should experience.