Review by Carly Fisher
It is hard to imagine a show running for 70 years…these days, you’re lucky to run 7! Agatha Christie’s The Mousetrap, however, has very impressively done just that and as such, has earned itself the incredible title of West End’s Longest Running Show. To celebrate its 70th anniversary, John Frost for Crossroads Live has given the show a new and exciting life under the direction of none other than one of Australia’s finest, Robyn Nevin, for an Australian national tour.
I will admit, this was a show I was excited to see from the moment it was first announced here in Aus - my grandma has stories of this show, my mum remembers seeing the show as a young adult on a trip to London and truly, I just think it is remarkable to think that this show, with the exception of Covid, has run uninterrupted for the equivalent of 3 generations of theatre goers in my family alone. I had to see it, it felt like a right of passage.
And what a beautifully done production it was. Isabel Hudson’s production design, based on Roger Furse’s original 1952 set, was gorgeous - detailed to perfection and featuring all the wonderful expected tropes of a whodunit tale - multiple doors, hidden stair cases and more, the set as a whole was impressively utilitarian and meticulously true to its period.
The action takes place on what is the opening night of the Monkswell Manor (side thought - if you think about it, the Monkswell Manor has had something like over 29,000 opening nights on West End alone!!) and, despite the ghastly blizzard-like conditions, the guests have arrived. Opening in the midst of this crazed weather, Mollie and Giles Ralston are under no false illusions about the work ahead of them for the duration of their guests’ stay. All the same, their enthusiasm is contagious and one wishes great success for them instantly.
Of course, it is not only the bad weather that looms over this day, but the information too that there has been a murder in London and an implication that it would not be a solo attack. With that, the scene is set for what we all now know to be a typical (let that not diminish the thrilling aspect of it too) Agatha Christie murder mystery - a house full of snowed in guests that each prove more suspicious than the last and a certainty that there is no way that they will all make it out of this stay alive. Nonetheless, with a police officer committed to finding the murderer, it seems that they will have a tough time getting away with anything much from within the house…
Let’s be honest, 70 years is a long time for audiences to become familiar with the tropes of a whodunit and I wouldn’t be surprised if a number of people in the audience, particularly Christie fans, had worked out the big plot twist long before the final curtain went down. That said, whilst it may not hold the bells and whistles of the modern true crime content that we all love to engage with nowadays, I would argue that the majority of the audience would still have been surprised by the ending…and if you’re not surprised, you cannot claim to not have had fun playing detective along the way. The show is exceptionally, well, British and despite the twists and turns thrown in by Christie throughout the play, The Mousetrap is light and accessible theatre at its best and a show I would definitely encourage you to see whilst it is in your city…maybe you too can build a multi-generational memory of this play.
Perhaps the greatest reason to urge you to go (other than the fact that it is a joyously long running classic) is to see this fabulous Australian cast in action. In a show like this, achieving a perfect sense of the period in which it is set is so important to the nostalgia of the piece, and also to the audience truly appreciating it for what it is, and not what it could be if taken to with a 2022 hand. Achieving this requires a complete execution not just of the exacting design elements, but also of the attitudes and accents of the time as well, and this cast succeeds at that in spades. Though I couldn’t find the name of an accent and dialect coach in the program but one must assume that there is a talented professional guiding this and, if I am right, to them I say, congratulations.
As Mollie Ralston, Anna O’Byrne is perfectly cast. Having spent much time in the shoes of characters like Eliza Doolittle (My Fair Lady), O’Byrne brings a compelling strength to this character whilst simultaneously achieving an airiness about her - she is light on her feet but strong in her convictions. As her partner in business and in life, Alex Rathgeber gives a strong performance as Giles - it is nice to see him take centre stage in a play of this scale and I hope we get to continue to see more from him.
Laurence Boxhall absolutely commands the stage as the highly eccentric Christopher Wren. His comedic timing is so well done and he expertly navigates his, shall we call them, peculiarities with a sincerity that ensures that the audience feels great empathy towards his character throughout. Charlotte Friels may be newer to the industry than many of her co-stars but her stage presence is strong and her characterisation confidently delivered. I really look forward to seeing what she does next - one to watch!
Geraldine Turner doesn’t have the easiest role as the early established ‘villain’ but she delivers it well. Adam Murphy is a clever choice of Major Metcalf and does well to exude certain confidences but also vulnerabilities simultaneously. Gerry Connolly comes in to deliver the humour and the intrigue as the, intentionally written, suss Mr Paravicini. Finally, rounding out the cast, Tom Conroy offers a strong performance as Detective Sergeant Trotter and plays the naivety of a seemingly newbie on the force, whilst trying to appear professional and in control, extremely well.
Though I have not seen the original production to know what is new and what has been inspired by the West End show, Nevin’s direction is impressive all the same. By her lead, the cast have formed a tight and well rounded ensemble that deliver this show with a respectful flair of its heritage but a necessary awareness of pace and comic timing to keep the show relevant.
Throughout it all I kept thinking about how truly admirable Christie was and how unique she was too - to pump out the number of manuscripts that she did and to create these intricately woven tales time and again, and to do this in a time where the thought of a woman doing anything of the sort would have raised eyebrows…the brilliance of Christie cannot be lost on audiences today. Yes, the shows may be a little predictable in their form and ‘old-fashioned,’ but that speaks only to how common place her works have become…and that is because, quite simply, they are consistently popular, commercial successes. If there is a literary cannon at all, she is one of the glorious women who are the sparks that light that cannon up.
Perhaps the most important thing about going to The Mousetrap, is being asked to keep the secret after you have left. So important is this task that after the bows, the cast takes a moment to officially welcome you into the club of those who have viewed this show and importantly the Company’s partners in crime. What that means is that hopefully no review is going to tell you what happens or who to watch out for…no, you have to go see the show and play detective yourself.
A word of warning though; you will never hear the classic nursery rhyme Three Blind Mice the same again after viewing…my, what a very creepy song that truly is.
Get your tickets quickly - The Mousetrap is playing limited engagements in each city.
Image Credit: Brian Geach