Writer: Agatha Christie
Director: Ian Watt-Smith
Reviewer: Jess Rowe
There is no doubt why this timeless classic is known as London’s longest running production, after 63 years not only astounding avid West End theatregoersbut now greeting regional audiences as well.
Set in Monkswell Manor, the country house owners and their guests gather, only to be cut off from the rest of the world by a heavy snowstorm and faulty phone line. All is fine, until the arrival of Sergeant Trotter (Luke Jenkins), fashionably on a pair of skis; he has a duty of protection for one of the residents staying in the house, after the recent events of a murder only 30 miles away, suspecting another will be slightly closer to home. Along with all traditional ‘whodunits’, this production does not fail to supply suspense at all the correct moments and gives no clear indications of who the murderer is, with strong characters all very capable of committing the crime.
With a suitably small cast, there is an element of comedy that keeps the piece alive, through the aspects of dramatic irony and a somewhat ‘comedy of manners’ style. Two of the actors in particular work extraordinarily well in this: Edward Elgood portrays an adorable, overly-eccentric Christopher Wren (not that one) that you can only sympathise with, even though some of his lines may be slightly psychotic. His polar opposite, Jonathan Sidgewick’s performance of Mr Paravicini, the mysterious European stranger of the night whose car broke down very close to the manor, provides a brash and charming rôle, which easily pushes the other characters out of their comfort zones to humorous effect.
The beautifully naturalistic staging creates the perfect scene for a murder mystery and, with all the action happening in one room, the creative team have had a splendid time setting grand wooden flooring, detailed wooden pillars and elegant archways, providing easy and tidy entrances and exits from the stage. The only fault withthe set design is the fall of the curtain to imply time has passed. When the curtain rises again and nothing has changed on stage other than the position of the characters, it creates confusion for a matter of seconds and breaks a perfectly flowing performance. Other than that, the suggestions of time passing through the variations of lighting changes (Peter Vaughan Clarke) are simple and effective. The sound design of Richard Carter adds to the tension of the piece and the melodic haunting of the nursery rhyme Three Blind Mice keeps the audience fearing the worst.
There’s a strong audience focus and an incredible reaction of gasps and murmurs when the murderer is revealed. You can tell a show is a success when audiences leave obeying the actors’ pleas to keep the secrets of The Mousetrap safely locked away 63 years later…
Runs until 29 August 2015 as part of a UK Tour| Photo: Liza Maria Dawson