Thursday, September 21

The Mousetrap – Sheffield Lyceum

The Mousetrap is intricately crisp with its fearless pace and cannot fail to get you baited and trapped within its mystery. The longevity of a 70th Anniversary tour of Agatha Christie’s The Mousetrap speaks volumes as to its appeal for seven decades to British audiences. We do love a good murder mystery in this country! And none better than the ones written by the Queen of Crime Mrs Christie herself.

Opening in London in November 1952, this once 30-minute radio play entitled Three blind Mice was now extended into The Mousetrap, still retaining its rodent reference. It is a play anyone can experience, not really frightening, not really gruesome, and not really a farce but a little bit of all these things which perhaps is its recipe for its social appeal.

This production is directed by Ian Talbot and Denise Silvey, with the resident director, Steven Elliott, also taking to the stage as the mysterious Mr Paravicini.

The audience are greeted with an authentic red theatre curtain whilst we listen to music of the era which includes well known nursery rhymes, a theme which repeats itself throughout the evening. As the curtain opens we are presented with a glorious interior view of Monkswell Manor in all its glory, with panelling, fireplace and every manner of authentic furniture and props. The seating faces the audience to break down the 4th wall and invites us into the house and into the intrigue of its eight present inhabitants.  Recently married, Mr Giles (Michael Lyle) and Mrs Mollie (Rachel Dawson) Ralston have opened their home as a guest house and their first guest arrive in a snowstorm which cuts them off from the outside world. The stained glass windows are exquisite as snow can be seen falling outside and gathering on the ledges. So, who are the eclectic guests?

Firstly, Christopher Wren played by Shaun McCourt, a rather unstable and childlike character, his enthusiasm for anything and everything is bewildering. Then there is Mrs Boyle (Catherine Shipton) a persistent complainer, nothing is as she thought it would be and Major Metcalf played by Todd Carty whom the audience found comical with his highly characterised accent and demeanour. Next there is Miss Casewell (Leigh Lothian) who is very mysterious indeed. Resident director Steven Elliott is also Mr Pavavicini, his Rolls Royce has overturned in the snow and he seeks sanctuary without a prior booking at the Guest House. We discover that earlier in the day a murder as taken place in London and after a telephone call from the police Garyn Williams arrives as Detective Sgt Trotter to inform the residents that one of them is expected to be the next victim…. With the house cut off by the snow and the phone lines now found to be cut that must mean one thing….the murderer is one of them too!

This production is delightful and retains its original language, rather than it appearing staid and unfamiliar it enables the play to be rooted in its era. And this goes a long way to adding to the farcical, comedic quality of the play. There is no Hercule Poirot with his ‘little grey cells’ or Miss Marple here to solve one of the greatest mysteries of the 20th century, it is over to you before the curtain falls!  In true Christie style along with the characters we think we have the answer and then are thrown another red herring, as we all question what we really do know about another person.

The lengthy dialogue is delivered expertly by the whole cast and the detailing in the lighting and sound all add to the suspense. This pacy play is still as relevant today as when it was written… 70 years??? It has to be good!

So who did do it? That I won’t tell, you need to find out for yourself. You can answer the burning question at the Sheffield Lyceum from 30th May to the 3rd June and become part of the 70 year tradition to keep the secret close to your heart!

Reviewer: Tracey Bell

Reviewed: 30th May 2023

North West End UK Rating:

Rating: 4 out of 5.