Author: Dame Agatha Christie
Director: Ian Watt-Smith
Reviewer: Victoria Bawtree
This truly extraordinary play is now in its 60th year: an institution even before this reviewer was born. With so much in modern society that is short-lived, it feels quite humbling to finally be one of those ‘in the know’. But don’t worry, all are sworn to secrecy and no clues will be found here…. An amazing 403 different actors have trod the boards in the London production, and now, ‘The Mousetrap’ can be seen by audiences throughout the UK, as it celebrates its incredible journey with its first ever national tour.
The set of this touring production is a recreation of Anthony Holland’s 1965 design, still in use at the St Martin’s Theatre in London. The opulent country house is brought to life by oak panels and solid doors, liberty fabrics and warm lighting from table lamps and wall lights, as well as from the fire in the hearth. Most importantly, there are various exits and entrances, and how these interconnect is introduced sporadically throughout the first half.
Indeed, everything in ‘The Mousetrap’ is designed to provoke question and raise suspicion. Before curtain up, a wireless broadcasts the facts of a murder in London. While the broadcast continues, a recently married young couple, Mollie and Giles Ralston (Jemma Walker and Bruno Langley), return home separately to prepare their remote county house for their first four guests. Why both are returning home through an ever-increasing snowdrift and separately is left to the imagination. The guests are solitary individuals, all with their own secrets. Then there is the self-confessed ‘mystery guest’, Mr Paravicini (Karl Howman) who turns up seeking shelter after his car has overturned in the snow. And when Detective Sergeant Trotter (Thomas Howes) arrives against all odds on his skis, all the inhabitants of the house are under suspicion for murder.
The cast is competent and enjoyable throughout. Jan Waters, a stalwart of the London productions, is fabulously forthright as the opinionated Mrs Boyle. Jemma Walker, as the young and eager-to-please hostess, has both confidence and vulnerability. Steven France is delightfully eccentric as the curiously-named Christopher Wren. And Karl Howman’s Mr Paravicini is suitably charming and mysterious, although his Italian accent wasn’t always convincing.
How ‘The Mousetrap’ has stood the test of time can only be down to Agatha Christie’s extremely clever and intricate plot. The characters are clearly misfits, and intriguing. Facts and clues are steadily introduced allowing the plot to thicken before it unravels, only right at the end. And of course, as well as a murder-mystery, this is also period drama: a continually winning combination for British audiences.