The Mousetrap

Reviewer's rating

As a very entertaining gift to us all, the producer Adam Spiegel has arranged to create a 70th anniversary tour of Agatha Christie’s legendary play The Mousetrap, now in its 71st year playing in London. I found that the evening feels like a trip back in time in some ways; and certainly gives the impression of a facsimile edition of the original. I saw this touring production in Oxford with a large and very responsive audience. I am almost compelled to say that it was a charming experience. Because of the constraints of not being able even accidentally to hint at the twists and confusions and red herrings of the plot, I simply want to recommend it highly. And give much praise to everyone on the stage and behind the scenes for creating an evening that makes one still able to enjoy a piece of British theatrical history.

What else can one say? It is a play by Agatha Christie so naturally there is a cleverly plotted thriller involved. A group of people are trapped by a snowstorm, of course; and someone is up to no good and we have to figure out what exactly is happening. There is also, of course, a final gathering in the sitting room where everything gets explained to the survivors and to us, the audience. Along the way, and especially in the first act, there is a a fair amount of what appears to be normalcy and provocations of laughter. Then the plot thickens and red herrings proliferate! The whole is a concoction of great wit.

The audience laughed a lot as the play got underway and the story began to unfurl. This was due not just to the writing but also to the sheer skill of an excellent ensemble cast. Joelle Dyson and Laurence Pears make the owners of the estate turned into a country hotel sympathetic and appealing. Elliot Clay does a fine job as the camp, pseudonymous Christopher Wren. Gwyneth Strong is suitably irritating as Mrs Boyle. Every character is clearly delineated and what we need to know of their back stories sticks in the mind. Todd Carty, Essie Barrow, John Altman and Joseph Reed all deserve high praise for their portraits they draw and their acting skills. Agatha Christie’s play is not one of her greatest, perhaps, but the actors are able, somehow, to make their characters both believable and ultimately consistent. Pay attention and at the end you will be even more impressed by this ability of theirs.

After the drawing-room comedy earlier part of the play, it was clear that the tension was rising when throughout Act II the auditorium was totally silent and utterly attentive. So part of the fun of the evening is considering each piece of Christie’s inventive mental jigsaw puzzle until the final pieces a whole picture emerges. This play is now very old and still carries on in its London production and this touring company is admirable. The sets and costumes are carefully re-produced and everything looks and feels enough like 70 years ago to make this a kind of theatre-of-nostalgia trip even if you have never seen the play before. The director, Ian Talbot and Denise Silvery, certainly have directed a cast that has a strong feel for the ambience and style of the original. Full praise to the entire production team and to Caroline Hannam for her casting expertise and her excellent choices of actors many of whom you may recognise from their other work.

This is a delightful tribute to Agatha Christie and to the well-made thrillers and plays of a past era. Even the way the cast lines up at the end for their curtain calls has an air of something nostalgic and special about it. I can only recommend that it is worthwhile going to see for yourself.