I'm not quite sure how it happened, but
somehow or other I've managed never to see Agatha Christie's The
Mousetrap until now. It would have been good to admit that
an aching void in my theatre-going existence has been satisfactorily filled;
sadly, that's not the case.
As well-made thrillers of the 1960s go, this is a perfectly correct specimen. The slightly changed second leg of the 60th
anniversary tour has an excellent set and is competently directed by
Ian Watt-Smith. The eight-strong cast look right and go through all
the proper motions, but somehow on this opening night there was
little conviction and even less tension.
This is the sort of play which was
always intended to be performed in a conventional proscenium-arch
theatre, one where the audience's entire attention is focused
directly on the onstage action. A venue such as Southend's Cliffs
Pavilion, admirably suited though it is for many types of
entertainment, cannot provide that ambiance. It also has an
I spent much of the first act biting
back a desire to call out: "Could you please speak up!" Too
much dialogue needed to be grasped at, only to prove ephemeral. But
the background to the story is vitally important, so that we
understand completely why newly-wed Mollie and Giles Rolston are
turning her ancestral home into a guesthouse, as well as why their
first miscellany of guests are there.
Jemma Walker is a charming Mollie,
doing her best to provide for the needs of the more cantankerous of
the visitors; Elizabeth Power's Mrs Boyle chief among them. Karl
Howman is the most urbane of snow-bound foreigners, matched by
Steven France's campily fidgeting Wren (the least accurate of bird
names if ever there was one!). I also liked Clare Wilkie's icily
precise Miss Casewell.
Then there's Bruno Langley's Giles,
manfully doubling up as hall porter, handyman, bell-push answerer and
anything else which may turn this venture into a success story.
Laconic Major Metcalfe (Graham Seed) and detective-on-skis Trotter
(Bob Saul) complete the cast.
Who dunnit?, you may be asking. That
would be telling... and we are specifically asked at the
curtain-calls not to say. So I won't. You'll just have to work it out