Writer: Agatha Christie
Director: Ian Talbot and Denise Silvey
To give a sense of just how long The Mousetrap has been continuously running; the show first opened before Queen Elizabeth II was crowned, and is still running both in London and touring around the UK today. The story follows a murder in London, reported on sporadically from the ever-present radio, seven strangers are snowed in at a boarding house and discover that one of them is, in fact, the murderer!
The boarding house stage is warm and welcoming to match the cosy mystery which crowds the characters into the increasingly cramped space with the snow progressively piling up outside. It is owned by the newlywed Mollie (Joelle Dyson) and Giles (Laurence Pears), who we begin to discover know mysteriously little about one another’s pasts. The first of the guests to arrive, Christopher Wren (Elliot Clay), steals the scene whenever he’s on the stage with his undeniable energy and off-kilter timing never detracting from the depths and anxieties of the character. It is Joseph Reed as Detective Sgt. Trotter though, who really shines in his performance as the policeman who gradually becomes more frazzled and desperate as the suspects refuse to do what he expects. He brings an energy and focus to the second act which really drives the story forward.
There isn’t a weak link in this lineup, with every one of the suspects being brought to life in a way that leans into well-beloved tropes, shows off some precision timing, and gives depth to characters where the scripting allows little room.
The strength of this show, of course, is in the script. Agatha Christie is still the queen of the Cosy Murder Mystery for good reason, and The Mousetrap is one of her best. The first act moves at a slow pace to match the surroundings, with the suspects being introduced one at a time, and the tension being allowed to gradually snow in the guests. It does suffer a little for this as there are times when it feels as though nothing is happening and the plot is just stagnating. In act two everything gradually speeds up leading inexorably towards to conclusion with red herrings being thrown out and swatted down left and right.
The Mousetrap is, while very much of its time, a delightful journey through the quintessential tropes of the genre full of mystery and suspense to keep the audience guessing. It is a little slow to get started, and wobbly in places, but who wouldn’t be at 70? With wonderful staging and a strong cast, age is showing no signs of stopping it yet and audiences will surely still be drawn to discover whodunit.
Runs Until: 28 Jan 2023