Everyone knows that name. Agatha Christie. The queen of murder mystery.
I normally like to build up the suspense before revealing my final verdict in these blogs, but in the case of The Mousetrap I will make an exception…go and see it! I had read a mixed bag of reviews on this play, many singing its praises, but a few relegating it to the archives of theatre – a part of history and nothing more.
The Mousetrap tells the story of Mollie Ralston (Anna Andresen) and new husband Giles Ralston (Nick Barclay) embarking on an adventure as proprietors of a hotel inherited by Mollie. As the first half unfolds they welcome strangers into their home, excited at the opportunity to make some money in their fledgling business. Unfortunately snow is falling solidly, and the remote stately home runs the risk of becoming swiftly isolated. The characters spend some time becoming acquainted, and there is a palpable awareness that something big is about to happen.
The end of the first half sees a murder committed. But who is the victim, and how will the group uncover the killer? It did make me chuckle, hearing the descriptions of characters and rooms, like a live game of Cluedo! Was it Sgt Trotter with a candlestick in the kitchen? Or Miss Casewell in the drawing room with a carving knife?
For once, I couldn’t choose a favourite character, or find anything I didn’t really like (and dammit, I am horribly fussy) about the play. Mrs Boyle (Lousie Jameson) was wonderfully irritating and condescending, but I slowly developed a luke warm spot for her despite the cutting remarks.Major Metcalf was not as prominent a character in my mind, but I enjoyed piecing together snippets of his life and wondering if he had an ulterior motive. Mr Paravicini (Greogry Cox) was a total enigma…where did he come from? Why? Was he really who he said? Why was he so sprightly for an older gentleman?? Was the murderer Miss Casewell, a sullen young lady over from abroad on mysterious ‘business’ that she refused to explain? Or was it Christopher Wren (Oliver Gully) in the hot seat? He had me chuckling throughout the performance, with his hilarious exclamations and flamboyance. (Ok, maybe he was my favourite by a little bit.)
For me, the play worked wonderfully. I was expecting a bit of a slow ride, but my expectations were easily exceeded. I particularly noted the attention to detail – the specially made newspapers, the snow outside, even the soft sound of the wind when the windows were opened. All of the characters were strong in their own right, and I am certain the combination of comedy and suspense would appeal to a wide variety of theatre goers.
If I’m being really critical, I guess I would have to comment that the survivors at the end seemed to get over the ordeal with surprising speed, laughing merrily and exchanging gifts! But even that, I suppose, has its place in what I can only describe as a slick, perfectly paced and marginally tongue in cheek production of a true classic. For me, this is what a night at the theatre should feel like.
Finally verdict? Loved it! Well worth hauling my bum out of the house on a monday evening for!