The Mousetrap, Agatha Christie's incredibly long running murder mystery yarn, is somewhat legendary as a production. First staged when there was still food rationing in the United Kingdom, this 60 year old play is still going strong both in the West End and now with an extensive anniversary tour round the provinces.
But, despite its mythical status, it remains somewhat of a curiosity as a piece of theatre. Like all Christie's works, the plot is the thing, but here the plot is sadly lacking. The script is light and offers little in the way of assistance to the cast.
Ostensibly a murder mystery, the play is in fact more of a farce; it is played in a very knowing way by the able cast but this robs it of any real sense of suspense, at times slipping into self-parody.
Much of the energy and humour in the first act comes from Anne Kavanagh's Mrs Boyle and Ryan Saunders's Christopher Wren. The latter veritably bounces across the set and injects some much needed oomph in to proceedings.
There is no real depth to any of the characters and we are invited to suspect each and every guest in turn by their gradually revealed character flaws. It is difficult to laugh along, though, when for two characters the ‘flaws' are the fact that they're homosexual and for another that he's foreign. Nothing ages a production like casual prejudice and, despite gamely trying to play it for laughs, it's tiresome.
Death, when it comes, is comedic rather than shocking. There is no opportunity for real disquiet in this play, only a pause whilst we wait for the next body. The second act is dreadfully slow, the audience were restless for another killing whilst enduring another interminable duologue between two characters they no longer cared much about.
Famously, of course, the denouement must be kept secret, and I certainly won't break ranks here, but honestly the play peters out rather than rising to a crescendo. An epilogue with a burned pie is baffling.
Overall, then, a perfectly inoffensive but utterly unremarkable evening at the theatre. It's not so much whodunnit as whocares?
- William Breden