Queen Marks Mousetrap's Golden Jubilee, 25 NovDate: 19 November 2002
HM The Queen, who this summer celebrated her own Golden Jubilee, will next week take part in celebrations for another significant 50th anniversary. Agatha Christie's The Mousetrap, the world's longest running play, reaches its half-century next Monday, 25 November 2002, and will mark the date with a royal gala attended by the Queen, Prince Philip and surviving members of previous casts from the past five decades.
The Mousetrap, which first opened at the Ambassadors Theatre on 25 November 1952 (transferring to the St Martin's in March 1974), has become a national and theatreland institution. As one commentator noted, it is to the West End what the ravens are to the Tower of London - if it were to leave, British theatre may well collapse.
Christie originally wrote the story in 1947 as a half-hour radio play entitled Three Blind Mice, an 80th birthday present for Queen Mary. When the extended stage version opened five years later - starring a young Richard Attenborough and Sheila Sim, who later became his wife - food was still rationed, Winston Churchill was prime minister and preparations had begun for the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II the following summer.
In 1958, The Mousetrap earned its place in the Guinness Book of Records by becoming the longest running British stage production in history. In the 1970s, it broke the world record. This accolade still remains and, to date, over 320 actors and actresses have appeared, supported by more than 150 understudies and the production has been translated into 24 different languages and presented in 44 countries, playing to over 8,500,000 theatregoers in total. Over the years, the company, with its annually changing cast, has not missed a single performance.
- by Terri Paddock