Theatre Royal, Nottingham
Seventy years after Agatha Christie’s most well-known play had its world première, it is back at the theatre where it took its first bow before moving to the West End: Nottingham’s Theatre Royal.
The Mousetrap defied the expectations of Mrs Christie herself and its original producer by becoming the world’s longest-running play. The London version has been performed more than 28,000 times and its popularity means there is little chance that it will not continue at the St Martin’s Theatre.
So why has The Mousetrap continued for so long and been so successful that it is starting a 70th anniversary tour? It does not have the sheer excitement nor the thrilling climax of Witness for the Prosecution while I found her 1956 offering Spider’s Web, performed in the Theatre Royal only a few weeks previously as part of the annual Classic Thriller Season, to be “a better offering in both structure and content”.
A plea by the cast at the end of The Mousetrap for the audience not to reveal whodunnit has largely been taken on board so that the dénouement should come as a huge surprise to anyone who has not seen the play before.The Mousetrap is set in isolated Monkswell Manor, converted into a guest house by recently married couple Mollie and Giles Ralston. A radio news bulletin warns that a murderer is on the loose after killing a woman in London. A number of guests turn up and all are suspects as they are wearing a dark overcoat, a light scarf and a felt hat – exactly what the murderer was wearing.
Heavy snow means they are unable to leave the building. Detective Sergeant Trotter arrives on skis and warns everyone that the murderer could be on the way. When one of the guests is found dead, it is apparent that the killer is already there.
There are three well-known faces in the eight-strong tour cast although you suspect audiences would have turned up no matter who was on stage.
Gwyneth Strong gives a super performance as the uppity, grouchy Mrs Boyle who upsets so many people that it is no wonder she meets her demise at the end of the first half.
Todd Carty is impressive as Major Metcalf but John Altman is not as comfortable as Mr Paravicini, his Italian accent inconsistent so you are always wondering whether it is part of the plot or a red herring.
Joseph Reed is excellent as Detective Sergeant Trotter, Essie Barrow is delightful as mysterious Miss Casewell while Elliot Clay shines as the immature, effervescent, Christopher Wren who is always up for a prank.
Joelle Dyson and Laurence Pears are well matched as Mollie and Giles Ralston, the couple who run Monkswell Manor who like all the “unpleasant or odd” guests have secrets they are unwilling to share.
Ian Talbot and Denise Silvey direct with an assuredness that comes from being associated with the production for many years.
The Mousetrap is definitely dated and contrived. But despite not having an appearance from either Hercule Poirot or Miss Marple, it is still a fun evening’s entertainment and there is certainly still an audience for it.
* This review originally appeared on the British Theatre Guide website