It’s strange that The Mousetrap became the record-breaking sensation it is today. As Agatha Christie’s plays go, it’s not her greatest. It doesn’t have her most entertaining characters, and, without wanting to tread on the audience convention of keeping schtum about whodunnit, nor does it have her twistiest ending. And yet, here it is, still packing them in after 60+ years on the West End, and out on tour around Britain again; it continues to defy the normal logic of theatre. Like the Shipping Forecast and The Archers, you might not drop everything for it, but you’d miss it if it went.
Everything you want from a Christie is here – the grand country house, the characters with mysterious pasts, the convoluted mass murders. There’s the retired army gent, the crotchety old biddy, the camp young fella, the golden couple, the nosy copper. All are arriving at newly opened guest house Monkswell Manor when news comes over from London that there’s been a murder, and there’s reason to believe that someone in the guest house may be next…
This particular cast boasts no big names, but more than holds its weight. Anna Andresen and Nick Barclay tick all the right boxes as the well-mannered nearly newly-wed hosts at the guest house, while Lewis Collier is suitably smart and practical-minded as Sergeant Trotter. Best of the bunch is Gregory Cox, who’s an engaging watch as the flamboyant Mr Paravicini, smoothly slipping in to scenes to provide some of the comic relief. By contrast, Oliver Gully as odd young man Christopher Wren errs to the OTT, a fault of the character as much as the actor.
The set is fairly plush, with carved wooden panels and a cosy looking fireplace for characters to sit next to, although there’s a lack of a convincing glow from it, despite the lighting elsewhere being quite effective.
Beyond that, The Mousetrap is what it is – a venerable institution, not sparklingly exciting, but worth ticking off for its place in theatrical history, with this cast more or less as good as any other. Somehow, despite its age, it still draws the occasional gasp from the audience – surely an indication that there’s no reason to bring its run to an end anytime soon.