"I've been to London to see the newly crowned Queen!"
"Pussycat, pussycat! What did you there?"
"I saw The Mousetrap, near Leicester Square"
And people have been going off to London to see it ever since.
It is almost unfathomable that anything not made of cast-iron and asbestos would share the impressive longevity and enduring popularity of dear old Queen Elizabeth but somehow The Mousetrap, Agatha Christie's seemingly indestructible locked-room mystery, has matched our Liz with a diamond anniversary and glorious tour of Britain.
The idea that "the butler did it" has become the biggest cliché in theatre. Thankfully, the butler is not in-service in this, perhaps the most well-known and best kept mysteries of our time. The Mousetrap has managed to keep the traps of its viewers shut for over half a century and far be it from me to reveal the expositions or inner-workings of what is still a marvellous mystery. Suffice to simply say that there is a body growing cold in a snowed-in manor, a deceptively disturbed killer on the loose and many secretive suspects to be examined.
The cast are much more than the breathing Cluedo pieces which you might expect them to be, a truth owed to Christie's rich script and Ian Watt Smith's keen direction. Each culprit performs with a subtextual brilliance, throwing out more red herrings than a Stockholm fishmonger with refrigeration problems; the result is an dizzying play of suspense and paranoia which still feels engulfing.
Whilst the character set itself is as typical as a murder mystery themed night in Midsommer, the performances are round and attuned to the genre.Steven France revels in the societal stereotypes of gay men pre-liberation, flouncing with wit and crumbling with vulnerability.Jemma Walker finds fear and passion in her performance as lady of the house Mollie Ralston, whilst Jan Waters portrays cranky and villainously arrogant old Mrs Boyle with enough class-conscious vitriol to reduce Downton Abbey to rubble.
Despite running for nearly 25,000 performances in the West End, The Mousetrap remains a snappy and witty piece of theatre. However "murder by numbers" and dated it might feel at times, this is a genuine theatrical institution.Whilst there are undoubtedly moments where its sense of "middle-class Marlborough" than "Dial M for Murder", Christie's work remains an enjoyably curious case which will have you thumbing your finely-trimmed Belgian moustache with intrigue.
The Mousetrap runs at the Theatre Royal, Glasgow, until 22 September.