The Mousetrap – Derby Theatre

Writer: Agatha Christie

Director: Ian Watt-Smith

Reviewer: James Garrington

How can anyone explain the enduring popularity of The Mousetrap? It opened in London in November 1952 and in April 1958 became the longest-running London production ever. More than 60 years and 26,000 performances after its opening night it is still going strong and is almost as much of a tourist attraction as many famous London landmarks. This tour is, then, a chance for many outside the capital to see for themselves what all the hype is about.

The Mousetrap is typical Agatha Christie, and everything about it is familiar as though we’ve been here before. We’re in a country house, oak-panelled and old, with back stairs and linking passages, the sort of place where someone can leave the room by one door and reappear through another so you can never be sure exactly where everyone is. It’s a wintry night, the roads are blocked with snow and the telephone is not working – and on the radio there is a story about a murderer on the loose. The house is full of the usual range of odd characters, none of whom know each other. Could one of them be the murderer? They all have their secrets, and more and more layers are unpeeled as the play progresses. As you would expect from a Christie mystery, the plot is full of twists and red herrings, right up to the final scene.

The characters are all well-defined, all very different and the cast work well together in portraying them. Anna Andresen and Nick Barclay make a fitting Mollie and Giles Ralston, with a veneer of naive confidence hiding any doubts about their first attempt to run a Guest House. Louise Jameson is a straight-talking, no-nonsense Mrs Boyle, while Amy Downham gives us a nicely-judged secretive Miss Casewell. Gregory Cox looks suitably suspicious as Mr Paravicini, Oliver Gull makes a wonderfully exuberant Christopher Wren and Tony Boncza is every inch the retired Army type as Major Metcalf. Lewis Collier does a great job of holding our attention as police sergeant Trotter, even when his back is turned to the audience, as he cajoles and browbeats his way towards the answers he is seeking.

To say more would give the game away – and as is traditional, at the end of the play the audience are entreated to “keep the secret locked in your hearts”.

The biggest mystery is maybe why it has lasted so long because on the face of it The Mousetrap is not particularly special. Yet it’s all reassuringly familiar, quintessentially English, and gently entertaining. Although it’s a whodunnit, it’s not grisly – and although it’s a thriller, it has a lot of humour. It may be starting to show its age, and it may almost be categorised as quaint – but that means there’s nothing shocking or outrageous here, just a good old-fashioned mystery, the sort of thing you can bring anyone to see. Could that be the secret of its success?

Runs until: 11 June 2016 | Image: Contributed

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