I have always been a fan of Agatha Christie and The Mousetrap is one of her classics. This is a little bit different though. It has never been published in the UK as a book, never been made into a film or a TV programme. There is an air of mystery around The Mousetrap. The play was first performed on the West End in 1952 and is the longest running West End play in history, still fascinating viewers after well over 25000 shows.
Sat in the Liverpool Empire Theatre, waiting for the show to begin, it was a full house. The enduring fascination of Agatha Christie’s most mysterious play evident. From the very first note of music, before the curtains even lifted I was hooked. It was a Saturday afternoon in winter, curled up on my sofa at home. It was absolutely classic Christie.
The story begins in a snowstorm and centres around the Monkswell Guest House where new proprietors Giles and Mollie Ralston (played by Nick Barclay and Anna Andresen) welcomed the first residents, a mixed bag of characters from Major Metcalf (Tony Boncza) a retired Army man who is quiet and fatherly, to Miss Casewell (Amy Downham), a modern, harsh woman who commands a room and will manipulate to get what she wants.
The backdrop to this is the recurring radio message of the murder of Mrs Maureen Lyon in Paddington. Everyone should be on the look out for a man wearing a dark overcoat, light scarf and hat (which is the attire we greet every character in). We watch the interactions of the characters, knowing one of them (or more) is the murderer of Mrs Lyon. There are clashes with stern and overly critical Mrs Boyle, Louise Jameson, and the hyperactive, flamboyant, over-the-top trainee architect Christopher Wren, brilliantly portrayed by Oliver Gully. The tension is building, broken by moments of wonderful humour. When eccentric Italian Mr Paravicini (Gregory Cox) turns up unexpectedly following car troubles and police officer, Sargent Trotter (Lewis Collier) arrives to investigate the residents, the dynamic in the guest house changes.
The play is truly captivating, edged of the seat drama with stunning performances by all of the cast. With such talent on stage it is difficult to single out any of one but Gully’s Christopher Wren was exuberant and added much of the light relief and Collier’s Sgt Trotter built in intensity throughout play, putting on a powerful performance which mesmerised.
This was an extraordinary show. The set was stunning with beautiful attention to detail. During the opening scene you could see the snow falling outside the stained glass windows, the sound changed as windows were opened and closed, the lighting was perfect in creating drama and atmosphere. There was nothing wrong at all with this show. Over sixty years of performances has created something truly magical, captivating and very, very memorable.
At the end, the audience is asked by the cast to keep the secret of the show, a show I will be seeing again. This is what theatre should be - clever script, beautiful set, sounds, lighting and captivating performances. This was 120 minutes of perfection.
Reviewer: Helen Kerr
Reviewed: 21st April 2016