Last weekend I finally saw The Mousetrap. The longest running West End show by a country mile! Currently in its 64th year (and the 26th volume of its programme), it was initially devised as a half-hour radio play called ‘Three Blind Mice’ as a birthday present from Agatha Christie to Queen Mary. By 25th November 1952, it had become a stage production overseen by Sir Peter Saunders.
It is set around the time of writing (the early 1950s) in a newly opened guesthouse called Monkswell Manor. There has already been one murder; initially it’s only heard about on the news, but before long it appears that it may be a lot closer to home. As is the case in most Christie works, a group of strangers (barring husband & wife, Giles & Mollie Ralston) is brought together and somehow found to have unexpected connections.
St Martin’s is a beautiful theatre, and the set matches it perfectly in its feel. The interior of Monkswell Manor is decorated in line with the Arts & Crafts movement – very Victorian, with William Morris designs on the sofa & armchair, and some stained glass windows.
One thing that I really admire about The Mousetrap is its casting ethic. There is very rarely a big name within the company – this allows the brilliant story to be the star, and for some quality actors to work alongside one another and make their name. Quite often it serves as a good production in which to make a West End debut, as is the case with two of the current cast (Jocasta King & Eddie Eyre).
Both are so confident in their roles (as Miss Casewell & DS Trotter, respectively) you would have no idea that this is the first time they’ve appeared on a West End stage. They both, surely, have bright futures ahead of them in London’s theatres.
Timothy O’Hara gave my favourite performance of the night. As architect Christopher Wren (all is explained in the play!), he is adept at providing the most entertainment of all the cast. His childlike enthusiasm for his surroundings is endearing. O’Hara does, however, add an extra dimension to his character as the play goes on – once more is revealed and the murderer gets ever closer.
The Mousetrap is a very clever piece of work, completely justifying its extraordinary run. It just makes me wonder why more Christie plays haven’t been regulars on the West End, given her enduring popularity. If you’re a theatre regular and have yet to see it, I suggest you correct that as soon as you can.
And I promise to keep the secret of who the murderer is locked safe in my heart…
My verdict? A classic mystery that has stood the test of time – it keeps you on the edge of your seat from the very start.
The Mousetrap runs at St Martin’s Theatre, and is currently booking until 7 January 2017. Tickets are available online and from the box offices. Front row day seats are also available.