The Mousetrap – New Alexandra Theatre, Birmingham

Writer: Agatha Christie
Director: Ian Watt-Smith
Reviewer: Clare White

Agatha Christie’s The Mousetrap is the world’s longest running theatre production. It opened at Nottingham’s Theatre Royal in 1952 before embarking on its current record-breaking West End run and recently celebrated its 26,000th performance. The UK tour, seen by over one million people, marks the 60th anniversary of the popular whodunit, which Christie herself believed would run for just eight months.

A skilfully crafted murder mystery, The Mousetrap is classic Christie – an isolated location, an eclectic group of strangers and red herrings at every turn. It is slightly cliché and rather like watching a live game of Cluedo, but in 2016, this 64-year-old theatre institution still works.

Full of tension and suspense right from the off, the audience are told of the grisly murder a woman in London before the curtain has even gone up. On the same night, 30 miles away from the city, Giles and Mollie Ralston (played by Nick Barclay and Anna Andresen) open the doors of Monkswell Manor, their traditional English guest house, to six paying guests. All apparently there by coincidence, each of them appears to have something to hide, and as the storm worsens, they find themselves snowed in, the phones lines dead and a murderer on the loose.

The cast is particularly good. Oliver Gully is entertaining as the overexcited Christopher Wren, bounding around the stage like a highly-strung puppy and Gregory Cox’s portrayal of the mysterious Mr Paravinici is great fun. Sarah Whitlock and Amy Downham are suitably austere and waspish as Mrs Boyle and Miss Casewell respectively. The cast gives depth to characters which could quite easily have appeared one dimensional, adding in little nuances and humorous asides.

The action takes place in the manor’s lavish sitting room, suitably atmospheric with traditional wooden wall panels, a roaring fire and falling snow at the window. The macabre nursery rhyme Three Blind Mice becomes the theme tune of the murderer, adding to the intense eeriness.

The Mousetrap is a mix of 1950s nostalgia, gentle comedy and on-the- edge-of-your-seat anticipation. Director Ian Watt-Smith has ensured a story as familiar as well-worn slippers feels dynamic and refreshed, while also maintaining the integrity of the author.

At the end of the play, as is tradition, the audience is asked to preserve the mystery of The Mousetrap by keeping the outcome a secret, which, combined with a compelling script and its nostalgic appeal, contributes to the longevity of this timeless tale of intrigue. It’s well worth a watch.

Runs until 5 November 2016 | Image: Liza Maria Dawson

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The Central team is under the editorship of Selwyn Knight. The Reviews Hub was set up in 2007. Our mission is to provide the most in-depth, nationwide arts coverage online.

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