Agatha Christie’s “The Mousetrap” is most famous for being the longest continually running show in the world. Still being performed in the West End, it is now celebrating its 70th year with this anniversary tour. There is one original cast member still performing to this day! That is the voice of Derek Guyler, playing the radio announcer. Set in the early 1950s at a remote countryside guest house, five guests and the newlywed owners of Monkswell Manor are snowed in, with phone lines out of action and roads closed. Then a detective sergeant arrives on skis, with news that a killer is amongst them.
The play was originally written for radio with the title “Three Blind Mice” and the somewhat eerie refrain of that nursery rhyme provides a suitably atmospheric theme as the curtain opens. The uncredited set design shows the oak panelled lounge of a country guest house with an open fire burning in a large fireplace. Although comfortably furnished, the set allows space for plenty of movement, which is made full use of as the play develops. Mollie (Joelle Dyson) and Giles Ralston (Laurence Pears) are the owners, Mollie having inherited the place from her aunt. The two have only been married a year and tonight they will be taking their first paying guests so there is considerable apprehension as the novice hoteliers await their arrival. Dyson plays Mollie with warmth and a nervous energy, with Pears giving us a jolly good chap, eager to please. The two are clearly in love.
The first guest to arrive is the delightful Christopher Wren (Elliot Clay). Like a hyperactive schoolboy he is all enthusiasm, energy and curiosity. Clay makes good use of the large stage, always on the move, fascinated and charmed by everything he sees, as we are charmed by him. Mrs Boyle (Gwyneth Strong) is next to arrive. Prim and demanding, nothing is quite right or good enough. Major Metcalf (Todd Carty) follows then Miss Casewell (Essie Barrow). The expected guests are now all assembled when an unexpected visitor arrives. Mr Paravicini (Kieran Brown) apparently has his Rolls Royce stuck in snow and requests accommodation for the night. The radio announcer has already informed us of a murder in London, then a phone call gives news of the imminent arrival of a detective sergeant, on skis.
Act 1 is played with considerable humour although still managing to create an air of mystery and expectation and the pace never flags. The characters are perhaps more caricatures, but the cast play them with conviction and honesty. There is the constantly complaining older woman, the uptight younger woman clearly hiding a secret, the bluff military major, the eager young architect and the strange, slightly sleazy Italian. After the arrival of Sgt. Trotter (Joseph Reed), act 2 settles into a more conventional whodunit with the discovery of a body and the phone lines cut. Reed plays the policeman with relish, in fact the whole cast appears to have enormous fun with this play.
I saw “The Mousetrap” many years ago. So little impression did it leave with me that I’d completely forgotten who’d done it. I could imagine that in the old days this play might have been much more static, conventional and frankly, forgettable. Ian Talbot and Denise Silvey’s direction makes this version a bright, energetic, amusing and very enjoyable mystery romp. Naturally I will obey the request made after the final curtain and keep shtum about the identity of the murderer!
The Mousetrap runs at Edinburgh Playhouse Theatre from 25th April to 29th April. https://www.atgtickets.com/shows/the-mousetrap/edinburgh-playhouse/
Reviewed: 25th April 2023
North West End UK Rating: ★★★★