Agatha Christie’s The Mousetrap: Pavilion Theatre, Bournemouth.
Monday 3rd August, 2015
Real-life drama disrupted Agatha Christie’s famous whodunnit The Mousetrap as it started a six night run in Bournemouth. Amid cries and kerfuffle from the audience, the lights went up, the curtain came down. Someone had been taken ill and for ten minutes Act 2 was put on hold as medics and theatre staff dealt admirably with this mini-crisis.
As the curtain rose once again there was a round of applause, the cast picked up where they had left off, recapping just a little to make sure that no one missed a crucial twist in the plot. It was seamless.
The Mousetrap is a remarkable play. A ploddingly old-fashioned country house murder mystery which was originally written as a one-off radio drama, it should by rights have vanished into the dustbin of dramatic history decades ago. But there is something special about The Mousetrap that transcends even the formidable talents of its famous author. It has now run for well over 60 years in the West End and this touring production is packing ‘em in too.
Even the cavernous Pavilion - never the best venue for drawing room dramas - managed to feel like an intimate space. At least it did after initial sound gremlins were smoothed out.
The tale is classic Christie. Five rather strange guests find themselves snowed-up in a creaking old private hotel in the home counties. They soon discover that there’s a crazed killer on the loose, the phone line has been cut and there’s no way out.
Tension mounts when an intrepid policeman Sergeant Trotter (Luke Jenkins) appears having battled his way through the blizzard on skis to warn that the murderer is not only almost certainly in the house but is ready to strike again .
But who is it? Guesthouse owners Mollie and Giles Ralston (Esther McAuley and Mark Homer) start seeing their residents in a very different light.
Could it be old soldier Major Metcalf (William Ilkley)? Maybe that crabby old widow Mrs Boyle (Anne Kavanagh)? What about the aloof and difficult Miss Casewell (Hester Arden) or the mysterious foreigner, Mr Paravicini (Jonathan Sidgewick)? As for the crazy young architect who calls himself Christopher Wren (Edward Elgood). Something seems very wrong there! They all begin to look like possible killers and when one of them is found dead, extreme paranoia kicks in. The Ralstons even begin to suspect each other.
Set in immediate post-war Britain The Mousetrap may seem genteel by today’s standards but it deals with issues like child abuse and mental illness that were rarely aired in mainstream theatre in the early 1950s. A flurry of possible clues and false trails keep the audience guessing until the killer is finally unveiled.
A strong cast, astute direction from Ian Watt-Smith, a classic set and judicious use of sound and light keeps the unquenchable spirit of this play alive. The Mousetrap, though unashamedly old fashioned, remains not only good solid entertainment but part of British theatre history. These days it is of course as much a tourist attraction as a work of theatre but a packed Pavilion spoke volumes about its enduring appeal.
*The Mousetrap plays the Pavilion Theatre in Bournemouth until Saturday 8th August.