Agatha Christie’s The Mousetrap was first performed in 1952. Christie herself expected it to run for no more than 8 months. How wrong she was, as last year it celebrated its 60th year, making it by far the longest running show in the world.
It came about when someone from the BBC wondered what gift the corporation could give to Queen Mary, mother of King George VI, for her 80th birthday. The answer came back that a play by Agatha Christie would fit the bill. She duly complied, and wrote a 30 minute radio play entitled Three Blind Mice.
Five years later this formed the basis of The Mousetrap and the rest as they say is history. In September 2012, to mark it’s 60th Anniverary in the West End, the first ever UK tour began in Canterbury and will finally finish in Dublin in June this year, having covered the length and breadth of the UK.
The play is a delightful little gem – very old fashioned in some ways – but with something charming about it. It carries you back to a simpler and gentler time. However it still contains the suspense required for a murder mystery and keeps you guessing until the end.
Without giving away too much, the play tells the story of five guests who come to a country house small hotel and are snowed in. A policeman unexpectedly turns up to warn them about a murderer on the loose, and so the plot unfolds.
The play is excellently performed by a great cast. Steven France plays a wonderfully camp Christopher Wren with strong performances by Bruno Langley and Jemma Walker as the young couple who run the hotel. The other players are Karl Howman with a delightful portrayal of Mr Paravicini, Claire Wilkie as Miss Casewell and Elizabeth Power as Mrs Boyle. Bob Saul as Detective Sergeant Trotter and Graham Seed as Major Metcalf complete this powerful cast. All pulled together under the sure hand of director Ian Watt-Smith.
The set is just right and really does bring out the feel of a small country house hotel – slightly shabby but very genteel. All this is enhanced by sympathetic lighting which sets the scene very well.
Agatha Christie was once asked why she thought the play was so successful. She suggested that perhaps it was because it is the sort of play you can take anyone to. It’s not really frightening, it’s not really horrible. It’s not really a farce although it contains a good deal of humour, but it has a little bit of all these things and perhaps that satisfies a lot of different people. I think that perhaps she is right. All I know is that it is an iconic production and one that everyone should see at least once in their lives.
To tell you any more would not only spoil the surprise but also upset the tradition that no one who’s seen the show ever reveals the murderer’s identity – which means there really is only one way you’re ever going to find out what happens – my lips are sealed!.