Reviewed by Helen and Garry McWilliams
Having opened at The Ambassadors Theatre, London in 1952 – The Mouse Trap is celebrating its Diamond Anniversary by touring the UK, providing the opportunity for patrons to watch it for the very first time, as well as return visits for those lucky enough to have seen it before. The show boasts numerous Guinness World Records including ‘the longest continuous run of any show in the world’. With this in mind we had high expectations for our maiden visit when Agatha Christie’s ‘phenomenon’ arrived in Wolverhampton.
The set itself had the ‘wow’ factor, with excellent effects outside the window giving the impression of a blizzard. The set was static throughout, yet it was imaginatively created to give the impression that the other rooms truly existed and in our minds, we could picture the ‘Oak Room’, the Cellar and the Drawing Room. We believe that when on television, Agatha Christie ‘crimes’ are given the most beautiful of settings, and it was no differently presented on stage although there are limitations, obviously.
The house that plays host to this story of intrigue, we discover is Monkswell Manor which is a newly opened Guest House run by ‘rookies’ Giles and Mollie Ralston, Bruno Langley plays Giles and he has shaken off his ‘teenage’ image from his days in ‘Coronation Street’ to give a sophisticated performance. Jemma Walker who has played roles in ‘Eastenders’ and ‘Family Affairs’ was outstanding as Mollie, she conveyed a range of emotions wonderfully and was extremely well cast in the role. Mr and Mrs Ralston’s guests have all applied in advance for a room in the Guest House and their arrivals are awaited while the snow causes havoc outside.
We eventually meet outlandish Architect Christopher Wren who skips about with impish joy and manages to persuade Mrs Ralston to let him take the room with the four poster bed in it! Then comes Mrs Boyle, cantankerous and extremely displeased with everything (played brilliantly by Elizabeth Power), she used to be a Magistrate. Mrs Boyle is quickly followed by Major Metcalf, a jolly fellow indeed played by Graham Seed and Miss Casewell played by Claire Wilkie. Both Seed and Wilkie are marvellous to watch and suited to this genre. Add to the mix an unexpected guest in the form of Mr Paravicini who is a man of mystery and played delightfully by Karl Howman. Then, as with any Agatha Christie story, there’s the policeman who turns up (on skis!) trying to solve a murder that took place the day before and that he believes is linked to the Longridge Farm case from years ago. Bob Saul plays Detective Sergeant Trotter who seems almost new to the job, he’s so ‘jumpy’. Despite there being few credits to Saul’s name in the programme, he gave a first-class performance.
The scene is set for the outing of secrets, stories that don’t add up and of course, more murders – all to the tune of ‘Three Blind Mice’ which reflects the title of the play. We had never considered ‘Three Blind Mice’ as being particularly sinister before watching ‘The Mousetrap’! The play also contains many humorous moments, especially when it appears that almost everybody fits the vague description of the murder suspect. As far as ‘whodunnit’ goes, we are sworn to secrecy and we wouldn’t want to reveal the ending, anyway – otherwise nobody would go and see it… and we highly recommend that you do go and catch it while it’s on tour. If we had one criticism it would be that the pace is slightly slow at times, but this does not detract from the fact that this is Agatha Christie at her very best, as always.