Writer: Agatha Christie
Director: Ian Watt-Smith
Reviewer: Harriet Brace
A stylish tale of intrigue and suspicion, diehard whodunnit The Mousetrap is still a murder mystery to marvel at.
More than 60 years and over 26,000 performances since its 1952 debut, audiences are just as eager to incriminate the culprit and suss out the main suspect before the dramatic reveal as they were six decades ago – defying all the odds for a play originally expected to last less than a year on stage.
The classic Christie story unfolds in a remote country house made even more inaccessible so by blizzard conditions. A luxurious vintage set of wood, satin, and stained glass adds to the high drama, in which mounting tension between hostile guests quickly becomes outright alarm as they realise there is a murderer in their midst.
While the modern audience may be used to more slaughter and less small talk, The Mousetrap’s maze of curious mutterings, misguided admissions, and outright red herrings provides food for thought for even the most seasoned sleuth.
The balance of the absorbing tale hangs on wily detective Sergeant Trotter, who is played with added value by Lewis Collier. Not only embodying the unshakable confidence of the authority figure, Collier demonstrates an eerie, unsettling determination as he dissects his suspects’ motives. Meanwhile Anna Andresen as butter-wouldn’t-melt hostess Mollie Ralston creates a natural sense of niggling doubt over what lies beneath her sunny exterior, and what her guests may also be hiding.
Despite the grisly goings-on the production is not short of giggles, mainly from grouchy man of the house Giles Ralston (Nick Barclay) and charismatic continental guest MrParavicini (Gregory Cox), whose flamboyant gestures and overstated chivalry provides some light relief from the macabre tale unfolding around him. Meanwhile, Oliver Gully brings such boundless energy and originality to “peculiar” young architect Christopher Wren that he both endears and disturbs in equal measure.
Collectively, a clever cast adept at keeping their cards close to their chest use sideways glances and shrewd hesitation to keep the audience on tenterhooks for the truth just as much as the contents of the script they have so painstakingly committed to memory.
The Mousetrap remains an absolute treat for the senses, its retro glamour pleasing the eye while the poisonous past at the heart of the story keeps the mind guessing. In the words of Christie herself: “Very few of us are what we seem.” But there’s no need to have any doubts about this superb production.
Runs until 17 September 2016 | Image: Liza Maria Dawson