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  • Chris O'Rourke

The Mousetrap

Todd Carty in The Mousetrap. Image Matt Crockett


The world’s longest running play, Agatha Christie’s The Mousetrap, opening on the West End in 1952 and running continuously since (aside from a brief spell during COVID) is a mystery shrouded in mystery. How a whodunnit so contrived, and so very much of its time, has managed to remain popular should beggar belief. As murder mysteries go, it’s not even Christie’s most original work, sharing several similarities with her far superior And Then There Were None. Both plots revolving around a group of people trapped in a house during a storm, with one of them a killer looking to avenge an old death. Celebrating seventy plus years, the anniversary touring production currently at The Gaiety gives several clues as to The Mousetrap's longevity. Its journey towards its big revelation being an utterly endearing affair, enriched with old world charm, and awash with theatrical magic.

Even before the curtains rise, a cinematic score establishes history meets nostalgia as its overriding tone. Evoking the once upon a time of Noel Coward and P.G. Wodehouse. Of modern afternoons off sick, curled up before the television enraptured by a classic black and white movie. One with a gruff, curmudgeonly Major (an impressive Todd Carty), a suspiciously eccentric young men (a delightful Shaun McCourt), a judgmental spinster (a suitably acerbic Judith Rae) and a darling dearest, young married couple (the impressive Hollie Sullivan and Barnaby Jago being perfectly pretty). Add a mysterious foreigner à la Bela Lugosi (the enchanting Steven Elliott), a modern women wearing trousers (understudy Helen Percival seizing her opportunity with a delightful performance), and a badgering, belligerent police officer (a determined Michael Ayiotis), and even the most cynical soon get trapped in The Mousetrap’s web. Its winter warm set, all falling snow offset by pockets of cuddly, cozy light, casting a visual spell impossible to resist.

Hollie Sullivan in The Mousetrap. Image Matt Crockett

With its bloodless murders, contrived plot, and its crucial revelations trotting in from outside the story rather than evolving from it, The Mousetrap plays like a Famous Five mystery for grown-ups. Both being stepped in eccentric Englishness from when the wireless brought the news, the War was still in most people’s memories and homicidal maniacs were an imagined dread long before serial killers became a reality. If this leaves it open to parody, directors Ian Talbot and Denise Silvey steer clear of it and cleverly treat the material as it was originally intended. Allowing whatever knowing smirks a modern audience might enjoy to arise naturally, adding further to the charm

Crime fiction, from Morse to Midsomer Murders, owes a whodunnit debt to Agatha Christie. On the evidence of The Mousetrap it’s clear to see why. Whether you love a classic whodunnit, care to enjoy a slice of theatre history, or want to take a trip down memory lane, The Mousetrap is the show you didn’t know you needed. Eminently enjoyable, it gives added pleasure for allowing you become part of an illustrious elite. Those sworn to secrecy not to reveal the end.

The Mousetrap by Agatha Christie, presented by Adam Spiegel, runs at The Gaiety Theatre until May 18.

For more information, visit The Gaiety Theatre


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