In 1952 an Agatha Christie play opened in London called The Mousetrap. Nobody expected 60 plus years later the show would still be running and showing no signs of stopping. And now the 60th anniversary tour seems to be going the same way as it returns to Manchester on its never ending tour of the UK. What is unique to this play is that the ending has and continues to be kept a very close secret. At the conclusion of tonight’s performance at the Opera House the cast told us we were now part of the Mousetrap family and as such asked us to keep their secret. And of course North West End will honour their wishes.
A newly opened hotel gains 5 very different guests although looking familiar they are all, along with their hosts suspected of a murder which we hear announced on the wireless at the beginning of the show. Hoteliers Mollie (Anna Andresen) and Giles (Nick Barclay) have only been married a year before opening their new venture. Both actors play their respective roles with confidence and believability as one by one their guests arrive through the worsening blizzard which eventually cuts them off from the rest of the world.
The first arrival is Christopher Wren (Oliver Gully) who has what can best be described as a hyperactive personality. His enthusiasm to join in with everything including the cooking is somewhat unsettling although Mollie warms to him quickly. Second to arrive is Mrs Boyle (Louise Jameson) and immediately criticises almost everything she sees. A perfectionist and fuss pot she rubs her fellow guests up the wrong way, maybe more than she imagines.
Major Metcalf (Tony Boncza) is the next to battle through the snow. Retired from the army we learn very little about him and seems to be there only to make up the numbers in my view. This is not to say Boncza plays the piece superbly with the lines he has been given and makes the role believable.
Miss Casewell (Amy Downham – no relation to myself) is the penultimate guest. She is very abrupt with everyone she comes across from the first moment you see her on stage and the way she played the role was my early favourite to be the murderer.
Finally on the guest list was Mr Paravicini who has suffered the misfortune of his car becoming stuck in the snow after over turning and is desperate for a room for the night to shelter from the weather.
As the guests and hosts begin to get to know each other, and in some cases wind each other up a phone call from the local constabulary informs Mollie that an Inspector Trotter (Lewis Collier) was being dispatched up to the hotel to investigate the murder which was heard about on the wireless. Cue Agatha Christie’s writing at her best as the plot twists and turns and each and everyone on stage becomes a suspect at one point.
The interrogations continue into the second half which was delayed somewhat due to a medical emergency in the auditorium (which the Opera House dealt with superbly) with some of the guests becoming increasingly uncomfortable with the questioning from the Inspector. As ever with Agatha Christie the murderer turns out to be a surprise to most in the auditorium including myself.
Director Ian Watt-Smith has kept this play tight from start to finish although it is I am told, a carbon copy of its record breaking London version and is played on a sumptuous set which is cleverly lit from both inside and out. This is a high quality production in every way and all should be warmly congratulated on that.
My problem is how this show has become so popular and enjoyed such longevity? It is no better than other Christie plays. Something somewhere clicked with the theatre going public to turn it into a record breaker, I just cannot for the life of me see what!
Reviewer: Paul Downham
Reviewed: 27th June 2016
North West End Rating: ★★★★