by Joy McKay.
Agatha Christie’s classic ‘WhoDunit’ was originally written in 1947 as a radio sketch named ‘Three Blind Mice’ for the birthday of Queen Mary, but first opened as ‘The Mousetrap’ we know today in 1952. It is famously the world’s longest running play having a continuous run until St. Martin’s Theatre in London’s West End was forced to close their doors during the Covid Pandemic. However, it managed to survive and on the 17th of May 2021 it became the first major West End show to reopen at the end of Lockdown. After 70 glorious years, and being seen by over 10 million people, the show is heading to New York for its first run on Broadway, but not before it hit Southampton.
The show opens on the lounge of a comfortable Victorian country house. A fire warms the space from an elegant mantle, an invitingly plush floral suite dominates the centre of the room, and a snowstorm can be seen through the huge stained-glass windows. This is Monkswell Manor, a guest house recently inherited by Molly Ralston and run with the help of her husband Giles. They are joined by expected paying guests Christopher Wren, Mrs Doyle, Major Metcalf and Miss Casewell, with Mr Paravicini and Detective Trotter arriving unexpectedly. I really can’t talk about the quality of the acting without divulging some of the character of the players and that’s ‘simply not cricket’ with a murder mystery but I will say that all roles were played with enthusiasm and fun.
We remain in the lounge throughout the play, a point of entry and exit to multiple rooms, the upper floor and the main entrance. This is cleverly designed to allow the audience a view of where everyone is coming and going from, important when trying to solve a mystery and keep track of everyone’s movements. The cosy panelled interior is an expertly created mixture of beading and trompe-l’œil which even extends beyond the doors to make the manor’s existence entirely believable. Also crafted with great skill are the costumes. From Molly’s fashionably fifties dresses, Miss Casewell’s rather edgy trouser suits, to Mr Paravacini’s ostentatious European tailoring and Christopher Wren’s knitted waistcoat the outfits show instantly who these characters are, at least, representing themselves to be. Altogether the staging is frightfully British and really nostalgic. The Mousetrap has never moved with the times and that really is part of it’s charm.
When talking about the success of the play in 1962 Agatha Christie said “It is not really frightening, it is not really horrible, it is not really a farce but it has a little of all these things and perhaps that satisfies a lot of different people.” And she describes it so well. It’s funny, there’s obviously a murder and there are mysteries. But the experience of The Mousetrap is really trying to solve it, looking for clues, and ultimately identifying the murderer. I recommend you go along and try, it’s fun, even if you get it wrong.
Tickets for Agatha Christie’s The Mousetrap (28 February – 4 March 2023) are on sale at mayflower.org.uk or 02380 711811.
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