Writer: Agatha Christie
Director: Ian Watt-Smith
Reviewer: Maggie Constable
The Mousetrap is famous around the world as being the longest running show of any kind in the history of British theatre. Tonight at Milton Keynes Theatre we were treated to Mousetrap on its first ever tour to celebrate an unbelievable 60 years on stage. The Theatre Royal, Nottingham hosted the play’s world premiere in October 1952 and it was there that Agatha Christie told Richard Attenborough, the lead actor, that she thought they should have a ‘nice little run’ That was clearly an understatement
A blood-curdling scream cuts the air, a crackling radio announces a gruesome killing and thus begins the record-breaking murder mystery. In her own particular style, Dame Agatha Christie, known better for her novels, has created for her theatre audience an atmosphere of spine-chilling suspense and a subtly clever and intricate plot where murder lurks at every twist and turn!
The story centres around a murder that is committed in London some thirty odd miles from Monkswell Manor, the country guest house newly and jointly run by the dour and cynical Giles Ralston (Bruno Langley) and his naïve and anxious wife Mollie (Jemma Walker).
Four invited guests – the camp and flamboyant student of architecture Christopher Wren, the cold, complaining and somewhat acerbic Mrs Boyle, the very nice and “proper” Major Metcalf, and mysterious and assertive Miss Casewell – oh and one uninvited guest – the late-arriving mischievous (in the true sense of the word) Mr Paravicini – are all snowed in.
As Mollie Ralston observes of this motley crew: “All of our guests are unpleasant or odd.”
Detective Sergeant Trotter skis in to investigate the murder and it is not long before another is committed. We are led to believe that each guest could be the guilty party and they all seem to hide dark secrets that somehow interconnect.
Steven France stands out as the very wacky young student who annoys everyone and injects plenty of humour into the piece, which worked very well. A great performance. Jan Walters, the only original cast member, gives an excellent portrayal of the difficult and demanding Mrs Boyle; very believable. Graham Seed as Major Metcalf is understated and convincing while the rôle of Miss Casewell, performed here by Clare Wilkie, is given added dimension and she really conveys the air of mystery. Bruno Langley as Ralston gives a solid performance but Jemma Walker’s Mollie Ralston was a little over melodramatic for me, or was that the direction (Ian Watt-Smith) which was otherwise quite sharp. The Paravicini character, portrayed by Karl Howman, was engaging at times but the accent seemed to wander all over Europe and rest in France, even though he was ostensibly Italian. And then there’s Thomas Howes’ Sergeant Trotter – spot on.
The set was perfect, creating just the right feeling for the era and the piece, and was certainly better than the original.
The first half moved at a good pace and had some good one-liners, in fact much more so than when I saw the original play in London. The second part of the play, however, appeared much longer, even though it wasn’t, and there were quite a few heads nodding off around me in the audience. But everyone was awake for the great revelation…. after the curtain had come down we, the audience, were sworn to secrecy about the killer’s identity so no spoilers here.
It was an enjoyable and quite gripping piece of theatre and everyone should make the effort to see Mousetrap at some point so why not this week. This version is definitely the one to see.
Runs until Sat 29 September
Picture: Helen Maybanks