Writer: Agatha Christie
Director: Ian Watt-Smith
Reviewer: S.E. Webster
On at least 26,000 occasions the stage curtain has risen over a performance of The Mousetrap. 2014 saw the 60th-anniversary tour of the classic whodunit drama sell out and now it’s back, by popular demand, at the King’s Theatre, Edinburgh.
The Agatha Christie favourite has long held an aura of mystery and all audience members are encouraged to become ‘partners in crime’ with the actors and keep the secret of who exactly did do it. Even 60 years on, the magic and mystery have been left unspoilt and in simply going to see this production, theatregoers are joining this long-standing tradition.
The current production is bold and confident and for the most part, does credit to the drama that Christie penned. The stage set is fabulous. Elaborate and highly detailed, the audience is instantly transported to the heart of the country house setting. So many wonderful details include the extremely clever use of lighting and the central window to create the illusion of passing time. Meanwhile, the various doors allow for a complex series of entrances and exits, meaning we never know quite where to expect the murderer to appear next.
The cast is self-assured in their various roles. However, the vast majority are guilty of over-acting. This is problematic when, on occasion, such exaggerated facial expressions, gasps, winks and nods of the head are not merely signposting but rather giving away certain key plot points far too early in the action. Moreover, while there are many moments of levity in Christie’s drama and there is an element of black comedy, the acting sometimes drifts towards the farcical. Indeed, opening night in Edinburgh saw audience members giggling at the point of the first murder – surely not what the producers had intended. Furthermore, the exaggerated received pronunciation of the actors means that in moments of heightened emotion they become difficult to understand and their diction begins to suffer.
However, there are some nice touches, including the repeated action of the cast opening the door stage right with their hands curled around the door frame so that anyone of them as they enter stage could presumably be the murderer.
Of all the cast, Lewis Collier (Sgt Trotter) and Gregory Cox (Mr Paravicini) deliver the most consistent and convincing performances, successfully immersing themselves in their respective character roles.
The music is typical of the crime drama genre and is recorded. It would have been nice to see this new production update, or simply creatively rethink, how they would approach sound and music in general. It is one of several elements that seem to have never altered over the past 60 plus years. As a result, the production risks feeling dated as opposed to period at points. It veers away from any risk-taking, instead, sticking to what has already been tried and tested. With an air of ‘If it ain’t broke’ this latest production of The Mousetrap stays true to the original, shying away from any new interpretations or ideas.
Fans of Agatha Christie’s murder mysteries will be neither disappointed nor delighted with this productionbut comfortably satisfied that they have spent an enjoyable evening at the theatre.
Runs until22October 2016 | Image: Liza Maria Dawson