Up and down the country, from the glittering West End to our much-loved regional theatres, stages are a new constant revolve. One show out, one show in, and the cycle starts again. But, nevertheless, some productions stick around a little bit longer, a year here maybe, a 3 three stint there? It’s pretty common, but what is more uncommon is that sometimes a show can run and run, the revolving door of change nowhere to be seen. The Phantom of the Opera, Les Miserables, and for many many years, The Woman in Black. But I’m not here to talk about those. I am here to talk about the longest running theatrical production in the world… Agatha Christie’s The Mousetrap.
When this famous ‘Whodunnit’ opened in 1952, it was thought that it would maybe run for eight months, and that was considered a success, but here we here in 2023, watching this production celebrating its 70th anniversary.
The Mousetrap, to put things simply, is your classic murder mystery, carefully and cleverly constructed to include numerous twists and turns, little details that leave you picking the story apart as you try to work out who did it. And whilst this production is known all over the world, the outcome of its famous story is one of the best kept secrets in theatre history, with every person who has seen it sworn to secrecy as to the identity of the killer.
Therefore, this reviewer promises to keep the secret locked in her heart.
It’s a harsh winter, snow is pouring down outside the newly opened guesthouse Monkswell Manor, run by newly married couple Giles and Mollie Ralston (Laurence Pears and Joelle Dyson) as they prepare to welcome their first guests. The wireless blares out the news of a murder in London, and as the guests arrive, each as unique and more than a little bit odd as the last, secrets and suspicions are rife. For the residents of the guesthouse, it is hard to know who to trust, especially with the arrival of an unexpected guest and an even more unexpected police officer. Who did it?
Fans of Mischief Theatre may recognise Laurence Pears after his appearances in plays such as The Play That Goes Wrong, Peter Pan Goes Wrong and Magic Goes Wrong, but here he plays Giles Ralston, the authoritarian husband who doesn’t take any nonsense and isn’t afraid to talk back to his guests, in a murder mystery that most certainly doesn’t go wrong. Giles may come across as quite a serious character, but Pears still has the opportunity to showcase some comedic skill throughout, much to the delight of the audience. Joelle Dyson’s Mollie is Giles’ opposite, open minded, trustworthy, always seeing the best in people. A believable couple, with a sweet and lovable chemistry that is given many chances to shine.
Gwyneth Strong’s Mrs Boyle is, to most people in the captivated audience, the character that everyone loves to hate, stuck in her ways and hardly anything nice to say, annoying everyone else in the house. To me, a standout character was Mr Paravicini, played to great effect with great skill by Keiron Brown. This larger than life, secretive, strangely hyperactively excited character who takes delight in the entire macabre situation earns many a laugh, but I couldn’t decide if this was because people found his strange behaviour funny or found it that kind of uncomfortable that just makes people laugh. A showcase for Brown’s talent as a performer, no doubt.
As Major Metcalfe, Todd Carty commands attention, stuck in his military ways but with a softer heart beneath it all, whilst Elliot Clay’s childlike, full of energy and desperate to please Christopher Wren won the audience over in minutes. Essie Barrow’s Miss Casewell feels strangely modern amongst her fellow guest house residents, passionate yet private. Joseph Reed plays Detective Sergeant Trotter, effortlessly grabbing the attention of the audience as he picks at every character, every nook and cranny.
Comedy, perhaps surprisingly, is an important element of this show, breaking the tension, keeping the pace up and letting the audience in to the more personal lives of the characters. The set, just as it was back in 1952, is craft and beautifully crafted, oozing with grand old manor house charm, you feel as if you could step straight into the world of the story.
This is a production that keeps people guessing and throughout the interval, the theatre was abuzz of audience members trying to piece it all together for the satisfaction is working it out before its revealed. I wonder how many people got it right?
The Mousetrap is a legend, standing proud after 70 years and continuing to pull in the audiences, to delight and captivate. Now on a massive UK Tour to mark the momentous anniversary as it continues to run in London’s West End, the don’t see this runaway hit slowing down anytime soon.