Having heard rave reviews of The Mousetrap from my friends and peers, I was ecstatic to see the show for myself. Oddly, knowing extremely little about the longest running show in the world, I went into Agatha Christie’s most famous – though not her greatest – whodunit with high expectations, searching for the secret.
“The story only partially lived up to this expectation and suspense”
Performed in Nottingham, the very theatre where the play initially held its world premiere in 1952, the story only partially lived up to this expectation and suspense. Seeking to keep audience members at the edge of their seats, this classic thriller by the ‘Queen of Mystery’ herself is largely more tongue-in-cheek than it probably would have been when it first premiered at the Theatre Royal.
“The murder story unravels and the question of who is the murderer needs to be answered”
Set in Monkswell Manor (although humorously spelled wrong in the play) in Berkshire, the story follows newly-weds Giles and Mollie Ralston played respectively by Nick Biadon and Harriet Hare. They have been bequeathed the property by an aunt and have begun to run it as a guest house. The murder story unravels and the question of who is the murderer needs to be answered.
One of the standout aspects that instantly captured my attention was the striking set design. A softly-furnished wood-panelled room with a roaring log fire, amazingly snow drifted outside the window, making the characters’ snow-covered costumes more authentic.
“One of the most standout aspects that automatically captured my attention was the striking set design”
The audience settled in for a closed circle mystery where the characters can move ‘offstage’ to the kitchen and upstairs. This use of the stage and the backstage was very well executed as the sound travelled well and did not appear inaudible. Special recognition goes to Richard Carter for his outstanding work as sound designer for orbital sound.
Prior to the action commencing and the curtain being lifted, there has been a nasty murder in London. We are informed of this through the use of radio, a crucial part of the play and a prop that was used well given the 1950s setting. It provided an eerie feel to this beautiful set and was used well for comedic timing. Peter Vaughan Clarke, the original lighting designer, did a fantastic job with the variations of light throughout to enhance particular moments and twists in the plot.
“[Lewis Chandler’s] creepy nuances combined with his golden comedic one-liners made the plot laugh-out-loud funny”
In addition to the Ralston characters, there is a whole host of other stock Christie characters that feed into the story. The best performance of the evening for me being the controlled, camp and exaggerated acting of Lewis Chandler who played the young architect Christopher Wren. His creepy nuances combined with his golden comedic one-liners made the plot laugh-out-loud funny.
Saski Vaigncourt-Strallen’s androgynous and stoic Miss Casewell is the statutory child who has been lost and is struggling with their emotions. There’s also the tweedy battle-axe Mrs Boyle who finds imperfections in almost everything (Gwyneth Strong), and John Griffiths is the Major. The mysteriously sinister tune Three Blind Mice is a theme that is embedded throughout and is played on the piano by the bizarre Mr. Paravicini (David Alcock).
“The costumes on the whole were very fitting for the period”
Everyone arrives at the guest house in seemingly identical black outer clothing; an exception being youthful Sergeant Trotter (Geoff Arnold), who arrives on skis seeking to find the culprit. The costumes on the whole were very fitting for the period with the exception of Wren’s modern trousers and the Sergeants modern coat.
“Audience’s weren’t really given a ‘eureka’ moment that is often expected in thrillers”
The Mousetrap has played continually in the West End of 66 years and is sure to continue for another 66 years at least. However, I did feel slightly cheated with the ending as audience’s weren’t really given a ‘eureka’ moment that is often expected in thrillers. Aside from this the fifties setting, the posh accents, and acting is well realised. Although it is far from my favourite thriller, it is worth watching as it is a play you can take anyone to.
Just remember, keep the secret…
Featured Image courtesy of Theatre Royal & Royal Concert Hall Official Facebook Page.