Agatha Christie’s “The Mousetrap” has returned to The King’s Theatre, and I must be one of the few theatre-goers out there still who until now has not seen the play, read the book, or somehow knows who in the end is the murderer. Now I know, and of course in time honoured tradition of this play I am sworn to secrecy and cannot tell you.
This production is from Sir Stephen Waley-Cohen and Adam Spiegel with Ian Watt-Smith the director, and at its heart this is a fairly simple plot – an isolated property opening for the first time as a guest house run by Mollie and Giles Ralston (Anna Andresen and Nick Barclay) takes in its first paying guests. Four guests arrive –Major Metcalf (Tony Boncza), Miss Casewell (Amy Downham), Christopher Wren (Oliver Gully) and Mrs Boyle (Sarah Whitlock). All this is set against the radio announcements and newspaper reports of a brutal murder in London (only 30 miles away), a killer on the loose and fast approaching snowstorm threatening to soon isolate the property from the outside world. As everyone soon finds out, they know nothing about one another, and everyone is a little secretive as to why they have come to stay here. The late and surprise arrival of Mr Paravicini (Gregory Cox), an unexpected and mysterious guest of foreign origin looking for shelter from the storm, only adds more questions than answers.
A surprise phone call from the police to announce that their Sgt Trotter (Lewis Collier) will be arriving later on a matter of great urgency adds the last character to our cast of eight, and when he finally arrives via skis through the snowstorm, questions of everyone present and their possible connection to old events begins. Someone here is not who they say they are, and everyone seems to have their own reason for not being fully honest about themselves. The isolation of the house is completed as the only phone line out goes dead and soon the killing starts.
As always with any good Agatha Christie play, the stage setting itself adds so much to the atmosphere of the work, and like some others, this one is set in one main room, so that allows for a very good set that does not have to be moved between scenes. There is no actual credit in the programme for the set designs, but very good lighting design (Peter Vaughan Clarke) and sound (Richard Carter) set a wonderful atmosphere for our cast to tell their stories in. Set construction is by Rocket Scenery and with some wonderful period props, this is a very believable stage setting. Some great period costume attention to detail too from Caroline Hannam and Janet Hudson Holt.
Our cast, as you would expect in any quality Agatha Christie production, are all very good in their respective roles and having fun with some of the over the top characters that are here...even if some from our viewpoint looking back can seem a little stereotyped now. This is an Agatha Christie world on stage set in a time and place that if it ever truly existed has certainly long gone. A place where murder most foul was committed in the most polite and English way...always very neatly and with a very good reason.
Probably having most fun on stage tonight though is Oliver Gully as Christopher Wren the over the top soon to be architect with a definite lean towards interior design and innovative cooking. Anna Andresen gets to have some interesting moments too as the veneer of an untroubled life starts to get unravelled from her.
This is cast-wise an ensemble production and they all have to work together to pull this story off convincingly, and it is a pleasure to watch how the characters are so well written that they allow the cast to turn them into believably real people on stage. There is of course also a very good story here that is constantly giving us clues both in the narrative and in sight on stage, but at the same time constantly playing a game of misdirection with the audience.
We all I think recognise a little bit of someone we know in there somewhere. Maybe that is what makes Agatha Christie stories so compelling to read or watch on stage, everyone is on the outside so harmless that you would never guess there is a killer hiding inside them.
If you have the time, just take the chance to catch up with this production...even if you know who the killer is.
Review by Tom King