Writer: Agatha Christie
Director: Ian Watt-Smith
Reviewer: Dan English
It’s classic murder mystery as Agatha Christie’s The Mousetrap reaches Canterbury’s Marlowe Theatre as part of its UK tour.
There’s plenty of twists and turns in this long-running play, which is both touring and based permanently in London’s West End, as a newly opened guest house plays host to a murderer and a number of their potential victims.
Ian Watt-Smith’s direction combines successful the right amount of comedy and dramatic suspense to create this piece of theatre, that leaves audiences on the edge of their seat right up until the final reveal of whodunnit.
Alex Wadham and Esther McAuley star as Giles and Mollie Ralston respectively, the new owners of the guest house, who are both eager to impress their first guests to stay at the hotel. The chemistry between the two actors is impressive in this piece, as they strike a fine balance between doting husband and wife, with an ounce of suspicion that both have for each other regarding the criminal acts that take place throughout the play.
There is a fantastic comedic performance from Edward Elgood as Christopher Wren. His character is the most unhinged of them all, and Elgood encapsulates this well in his performance. Wren is a comedic antidote to the accusations of murder that are flung across the grand guest house living room, but he also displays psychotic tendencies that lead to questions about his innocence too.
Anne Kavanagh is the hoity-toity elderly Mrs Boyle that ruffles the feathers of the Ralstons with her brash arrival and even brasher tone towards her hosts. Mrs Boyle gets under the skin of the audience as well as her hosts, and that is a testament to Kavanagh’s performance. Her scathing remarks towards the Ralstons are both nasty and humorous, but also allude to a class divide emerging during the time that the play is set (40s).
There are also strong performances from William Ilkley (Major Metcalf), Luke Jenkins (Sgt Trotter), Jonathan Sidgwick (Mr Paravicini) and Hester Arden (Miss Casewell) with all four assisting in creating the tense atmosphere that befalls the guest house. Jenkins’ Sgt Trotter is a particular highlight, as he helps guide the plot and the audience through his investigation, leading to the play’s revealing finale.
While this play displays all of the positives of Christie’s superb crime writing skills, the script does feel dated throughout. There are jokes and remarks that are lost on a modern audience, and at times the performance carries an aura of tiredness with it that cannot be rectified despite the talents of its cast.
The Mousetrap does come with an impressive set design, which creates the richness of the guest house well. It also assists in a number of physical gags, as well as the murder plot itself, by housing a number of concealed, intricately placed, entrances and exits that are utilised throughout.
This is a fun murder mystery, but does have its moments of painful slowness. There are some excellent performances from the entire cast, but the script itself is something that does let the production down, over sixty years since its debut performance. It might not play on the mind too much after the curtain falls, but one nursery rhyme in particular will have different connotations once this play is viewed.
Runs until 5 September, then continues on its tour| Photo:Liza Maria Dawson