I first saw The Mousetrap right here at the Alexandra Theatre back in 2016. But Mr Fletche is here with me on Press Night for the latest production as a Mousetrap newbie so I’m not giving anything away. After all, I know whodunnit. Or do I?
The first rule of The Mousetrap is “do not talk about The Mousetrap”. Which could lead to a very short review. Indeed, the cast implore us at the curtain call to keep the ending a secret. It’s considered an act of treachery to reveal the conclusion. Only a monster would break this vow of confidentiality. So let’s talk about The Mousetrap, carefully avoiding anything that may be considered a spoiler.
Agatha Christie’s famous murder mystery is the world’s longest continuous running play. First performed in 1952, it has never been adapted for film or TV, meaning that theatre-goers are the only ones who can experience the story.
Set in a remote country guest house, five strangers arrive during a cold winter’s night. A snowstorm means they are trapped there together listening to reports on the radio of a murder that has taken place in London. The murderer is on the run. A number of the guests appear to fit the description, dark coat, light scarf, soft felt hat. Is the murderer in the house? And are the guests all as unconnected as they seem?
Could it be the eager hosts Mollie & Giles Ralston (Harriett Hare and Nick Biadon), full of excitement about welcoming their first guests to Monkswell Manor? Or the exuberant young architect Christopher Wren played by Lewis Chandler? How about the haughty and highly critical Mrs Boyle, superbly portrayed by Susan Penhaligon? Although the police are looking for a man, could feisty Miss Casewell (Saskia Vaigncourt-Strallen) be involved? Does jovial former war veteran Major Metcalf (John Griffiths) know more than he lets on? And naturally, suspicion falls on the mysterious foreigner Mr Paravicini (David Alcock).
With rumours that the Manor has been connected to the murder, Sergeant Trotter (Geoff Arnold) is sent to investigate this motley crew, battling the impassable road on skis. As Trotter unpicks the stories of the gathered company, each of the seven suddenly seem capable of committing murder. But which of the stories are red herrings? And can he solve the mystery before the murderer strikes again?
Seeing it again, already knowing this well-kept secret, was just as enjoyable as the first time around. Possibly more so as I tried to catch the foreshadowing and clues to the murderer’s identity that I may have missed before. This shows that The Mousetrap doesn’t simply rely on the shock unravelling of the mystery.
All of the action takes place on a single set, a traditional oak-panelled drawing room with chintz covered chairs, patterned rugs, paintings of aristocrats and a wood fire. This is one show where the tour set is not revamped or updated; it’s a carbon copy of the set from its West End home, St Martin’s Theatre. Indeed, the audience are drawn into the parlour, almost feeling the icy draught when the window is opened.
The ensemble cast is excellent, with the performers sharing the plaudits. It’s not all doom and gloom and there is plenty of humour smattered throughout. The busy auditorium on opening night is testament to the play’s enduring popularity. I promise you won’t be disappointed by this enthralling drama – and you’ll be welcomed into The Mousetrap Club!
Press photos by Johann Persson