Billed as the West End’s longest running play, The Mousetrap has been thrilling audiences for more than 60 years. Agatha Christie’s unexpected hit (by her own volition) is going as strong in 2019 as it was in 1952, with a new UK tour running alongside the London production. Having never seen the show, I ventured along to The Orchard Theatre, Dartford to discover what has been pulling in the crowds for the best part of a century.
A group of people gathered in a remote part of the countryside discover, to their horror, that there is a murderer in their midst. Who can it be? One by one the suspicious characters reveal their sordid pasts until at the last, nerve-shredding moment the identity and the motive are finally revealed. A cracking yarn and an irresistible treat for amateur sleuths everywhere!
The play has one setting, a snowed-in guesthouse in the middle of nowhere, and just eight cast members, but it’s certainly enough to keep you engaged. The plot builds nicely, although it doesn’t border on ‘gripping’ until act two. The script is surprisingly funny in places and there’s a steady pace through the two-hour piece.
Agatha Christie’s legendary writing is evident in this classic thriller, although that’s just what it is… a classic. There are a few outdated comments in the script and, in the fifties, a lot of these misleading plot devices were cutting-edge, likely fooling most in the room. In 2019, with witty TV crime thrillers at the height of popularity, these hints and set-ups are more easily spotted. That’s no fault of the show itself. Of course Agatha Christie is one of the crime-writing pioneers, and the best-selling author. There were many around me who were still led away from the real killer, and after running for so many years, the play’s strengths are still clear.
The cast perform their roles admirably and they all paint a suitable picture of the varied group of guests. A nod must go to Lewis Chandler as Christopher Wren – by far the most humorous role but he pulls it off with ease and he demonstrates depth when the character shows his vulnerable side.
Although there are moments that are stuck in the past, this is the mother (or grandmother) of all murder mystery thrillers and Agatha Christie’s ability to tell a story is evident. The Mousetrap still provides a good night out and will have most leaving the theatre scratching their heads. Witty writing and strong acting – just remember to keep the secret!