Writer: Agatha Christie
Director: Ian Watt-Smith
Reviewer: Mary Tapper
When The Mousetrap arrived in the West End in November 1952 neither Agatha Christie nor the play’s producer, Peter Saunders, had very high hopes for it. Christie predicted the run would last only 8 months with Saunders slightly more optimistic at 14 months. 60 years on and the play is still running in the West End, with this touring version to celebrate its huge success visiting theatres throughout Britain.
The play is set at Monkswell Manor, which is just opening to admit its first paying guests. The hosts are the young couple Mollie and Giles Ralston, married for a year and desperate for things to go well with their new venture so that they can make their inherited house pay, and the scene is set, as a strange assortment of guests arrive, only to be stranded by a snow storm. The radio helpfully informs us of a murder in London earlier that same day, with the description of the suspect vague – it could match most of our newly arrived guests or indeed the hosts! Then to complicate things further a young police sergeant arrives to investigate, as the address of the guest house has been found at the scene of the murder, implying that the murderer may strike again at any moment in our crowded house!
The set is impressive, with several entrances and exits and a corridor and staircase built at the back of the set. With snow falling outside the grand window and a fire in the hearth it sets the atmosphere well, although the wide design means that characters do a lot of striding about and it lacks any real sense of being enclosed….it feels more like a thoroughfare than a real room.
The production itself is safe and reliable rather than sparkling. The pace feels slightly slow in places and occasionally microphones used to project the actors voices come on a split second too late. The acting is quite good but with Christie the plot is all, so we are given very little character development and do not really end up caring about anyone. The exception is Ryan Saunders, playing Christopher Wren, a Peter Pan of a man, always causing mischief and poking fun. His dialogue with Joanna Croll, playing Mollie, provide some of the strongest scenes, painting a charming relationship in a play where other interaction between characters is minimal.
At the end of the play we are asked by a cast member to “keep the secret” of who the murderer is and it feels like a privilege to have joined the club! I think in the end Christie herself probably summed up the play quite accurately when she said “It is the sort of play you can take anyone to. It’s not really frightening. It’s not really horrible. It’s not really a farce, but it has a little bit of all these things and perhaps that satisfies a lot of different people.” A good but unremarkable night out.
Runs until 12th October