The Mousetrap – Orchard Theatre, Dartford

Writer: Agatha Christie

Director: Gareth Armstrong

Reviewer: Dan English

There are twists, gasps and foul play aplenty in the hard-working touring production of the long-running West End hit The Mousetrap, penned by renowned sleuth scribe Agatha Christie.

Cut off from the rest of civilisation in the midst of a heavy winter storm, the guests as the newly opened Monkswell Manor Guest House find themselves inexplicably linked to the murder of a woman in Paddington. The plot soon thickens, but there’s no spoilers here!

Nick Biadon and Edith Kirkwood are Mr and Mrs Ralston who find their newly acquired residence at the centre of a brutal murder case. Biadon and Kirkwood keep a good pace to the piece’s momentum and work hard to build the suspense within Christie’s plot.

Christie’s story encompasses many unique individuals, including the magnificently and perfectly weird Christopher Wren (Lewis Chandler). Chandler brings a quickly dynamic to his shift character, and it’s often his role that ups the eerieness of the piece.

In addition, Susan Penhaligon, David Alcock, John Griffiths and Saskia Vaigncourt-Strallen all combine to build a brilliant ensemble to help to drive this suspense-filled piece forward. All four create unique and three-dimensional characters who present intrigue and fascination as the plot thickens. Each appear masters of deception. Penhaligon’s Mrs Boyle is a particular treat, with her wickedly icy tongue matching the bitter cold outside the manor, particularly during lighter moments when complaining about the upkeep of the guest house. Without the hard-working and diligent cast, the piece runs the risk of losing the audience amid Christie’s sharp and quick dialogue.

Geoff Arnold is Sergeant Trotter, sent to the guest house to carry out investigations into the murder. Arnold’s urgency as Trotter heightens the sense of terror and fear the characters are caught within. Arnold has strong timing, right from his very introduction, and he commands the numerous interrogation scenes with aplomb.

It’s a maleable set which does allow for moments of light-relief, and it immediately helps to create an atmosphere of mystery, with plenty of drawers, cupboards, doors and windows for things to leap out from. The set alone is enough to keep the air of intrigue thick in the production.

Needless to say, with no spoilers given, that this production continues to keep audiences guessing right until the very end. It’s a treat and it remains obvious why this production continues to enchant audiences over sixty years since opening.

Runs until 21 September 2019 

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