Writer: Agatha Christie
Director: Ian Watt-Smith
Reviewer: Nicole Evans
The first rule of The Mousetrap is that you don’t talk about The Mousetrap. The second rule of The Mousetrap…you get the idea.
The idea behind Agatha Christie’s landmark production was born way back in 1947 when she answered a royal command to write a play for Queen Mary’s birthday. A thirty minute radio drama was created and five years on this formed the basis for the iconic whodunit that still puzzles new audiences today. Sixty years on The Mousetrap is celebrating its somewhat unexpected success by going on tour for the first time in its history, offering national audiences a once in a lifetime opportunity to solve the mystery in the comfort of their local theatre.
Set in the main hall of Monkswell Manor Guest House, the impressive scenery towers above the stage as the curtain rises. A quaintly furnished room stands before us, functional doors and stairwells give the impression of several rooms and passages coming off it, and a feature window paints a snowy winter scene outside. A news report plays out of the wireless; a murder has been committed. With only a limited description of the murderer, it will surely be impossible to discover who committed the crime…
We are soon introduced to Mollie and Giles Ralston, the proprietors of the newly opened guest house who are busily preparing to receive their first residents and as the five guests arrive one by one it is quickly apparent that each one of them could easily fit the bill of the murderer. Seemingly oblivious to the fact a crime has been committed they all display differing degrees of shock when they discover a police sergeant is to visit to question them about the recent events. Convinced the secret of the mystery lies within Monkswell Manor – an accusation each resident denies – Detective Sergeant Trotter is on hand to interrogate each suspect and solve the crime. With the snow getting heavier outside, and their ties to civilisation being cut, is their safety at stake? Could the murderer really be among them?
It is difficult to criticise a play that is so famous for being unchanged, for being so unchanged, but you can’t help but long for something more from the production than you get. It provides a perfectly enjoyable evening, and unravelling the mystery is certainly good fun, but the laughs are quite predictable, the costumes and characters very typical (just think Cluedo and you’ll be pretty much there) and the acting very unmemorable. The cast do a great job of playing their individual rôles, and capture the personalities brilliantly, but the characters offer little by way of a challenge or interpretation to play and therefore who is actually acting them almost seems irrelevant. Some might say this familiarity is part of the charm, but it feels like we should have expected more from a diamond anniversary tour and an extra twist or two in the telling of the tale would have charmed much more.
Despite the downsides, the audience were still sold and an enjoyable evening was had by all. Although dated, The Mousetrap will always be the ultimate whodunit. A timeless classic that should be on everyone’s “must see once” list. Just don’t forget the rules.
Runs until November 9th
Picture: Helen Maybanks