One of those plays I’ve wanted to see for years and a bucket list show for all keen theatre-goers – The Mousetrap is in town. It’s a special play for Nottingham. It turns out Nottingham’s Theatre Royal was a favourite of Agatha Christie - she premiered several plays here and considered it a lucky theatre. For this reason, she chose the venue for The Mousetrap world premiere in October 1952, and joined a cast which including Richard Attenborough for the opening night.
After Nottingham the play toured the provinces for a few weeks, with Agatha estimated maybe a 6-week run before it ran out of steam. However, after opening in the West End in November 1952 it has been running constantly somewhere in the UK ever since, holding the title of longest running play in the UK – 67 years. The Theatre Royal magic at work.
But what can I tell you about ‘The Mousetrap’? Unfortunately, not all you may want to know. At the end of every performance the audience are famously sworn to secrecy so there is only so much I can tell you about this legendary whodunit.
There is nothing flashy or pretentious about this production, which has in spirit hardly changed since 1952, complete with clipped plummy accents and lashings of 50s tweed and knitware. With a finely detailed single set piece (the living room), we find ourselves in the wooden panelled Monkswell Manor Guest house about 30 miles out of London. New proprietors Mollie (Harriett Hare) and Giles Ralston (John Griffiths) are expecting their first four guests.
First to arrive is the young, childish and theatrical Christopher Wren (his parents hoped he’s become an architect he tells us). Next the stony faced, never satisfied Mrs Boyle (Gwyneth Strong – who played Cassandra in Only Fools and Horses) who made it through the increasingly heavy snow outside with the assistance of Major Metcalf (John Griffiths - who is also the resident director of this production). Finally, we meet the serious and intrepid looking Miss Casewell (Saskia Vaigncourt-Strallen). All six characters are typical Christie characters and very much of the 1950s. Part of the appeal of this play is that nothing has been changed since it opened back in 1952.
Meanwhile the weather has taken a turn for the worst and it looks like everyone will be snowed in for a few days. With little in common to talk about there are discussions about a sensational murder the day before in London. The description of the suspect is ‘medium build, a dark coat, light scarf and a dark felt hat’. And you guessed it, all six were wearing just that. But there is no reason so suspect anyone of the London murder at this point is there?
Soon there were rumblings in the audience when a mysterious Italian bangs on the guesthouse door claiming his car overturned near-by in a snowdrift. Mr Paravicini’s (David Alcock) odd demeanour and evasive behaviour immediately raises eyebrows.
As the Ralston’s and their guests mingle and chat we get to know them all in slightly larger than life Christie style. All have secrets and the audience needs to start paying real attention to their conversations to pick up clues. Cue the arrival of intrepid DS Trotter (Geoff Arnold) arriving through the blizzard on skis, only to tell the assembled guests he believes they are connected to the recent London murder and that one, if not two of them are in imminent danger...
This being a Whodunit you can expect more dunit, who will be murdered? While I am now sworn to secrecy, I can guarantee you’ll get swept along with the 50s characters. You do feel as though you are sitting in the guesthouse living room with them, eyes peeled and ears cocked for clues and signs of dastardly deeds and double crossing.
It was exciting to be one of the latest inductees in to this piece of thrilling theatre history! It’s a slick production and if you’ve ever enjoyed Poirot or Midsummer Murders then you should definitely catch this.
The Mousetrap plays at Nottingham's Theatre Royal until Saturday 22 June 2019.