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Clues at Eden Court to the mystery behind The Mousetrap’s long history

By Margaret Chrystall

REVIEW: The Mousetrap

Eden Court

5 stars

Agatha Christie once said that her mystery The Mousetrap is the sort of play “you can take anyone to”.

Looking round at a packed Eden Court Empire Theatre on Monday night, there was even a tiny baby in arms, among the couples, families and groups of pals, many of them dressed up for a special night out.

The cast of the 70th anniversary production of The Mousetrap.
The cast of the 70th anniversary production of The Mousetrap.

As the lady from Elgin next to me said, The Mousetrap was on her bucket list. And regardless of what the play is like itself, as the famously “longest running play in the West End”, it’s got a special history that brings people flocking to see what all the fuss is about. “Haveyoudunnit?” as one of the catchy publicity slogans teases.

There may not be much else left influencing our day-to-day lives from 1952 – the year The Mousetrap opened. But luckily there’s an in-built timeless quality to the story from master-plotter Agatha Christie that stops the unfolding drama feeling too old-fashioned. And the seven suspects are just interesting enough to bring to life the human pieces in this Cluedo-esque game of life and death.

Spot the killer?
Spot the killer?

Young marrieds Mollie (Rachel Dawson) and Giles (Michael Lyle) Ralston have chosen a snowy day to open Mollie’s inherited stately home Monkswell Manor as their newly-opened guest house. They await their first guests, when a radio news story reveals a murder in London has police looking for a suspected male killer. As Christopher Wren (Shaun McCourt), grumbling Mrs Boyle (Catherine Shipton), bluff Major Metcalf (Todd Carty), young Miss Casewell (Leigh Lothian) and unexpected guest, stranded car owner Mr Paravicini (Steven Elliott) all arrive, a phone call reveals a policeman is coming through the snow to talk to the home owners and that they must “listen carefully to what Inspector Trotter has to say”.

Todd Carty is frightfully posh and blustering as the helpful major, Stephen Elliott’s Paravicini is modelled nine parts on Dracula, to one part a panto Italian like Silvio Berlusconi. Catherine Shipton (you probably know as Duffy from TV’s Casualty), is a girning complainer as Mrs Boyle, Shaun McCourt is manically playful as young Mr Wren, while Leigh Lothian’s Miss Casewell is reserved yet self-aware.

Red herrings, rogue clues, misleading information – the audience faces them all to try to get to the truth along with Detective Sergeant Trotter (Garyn Williams) when he arrives in almost the nick of time.

Suspense keeps the whole thing ticking along – tick-tock, check out the mantelpiece clock – that’s maybe the same one that’s been part of the play since the start.

And listen out for what you could say is the production’s longest-running ‘actor’ – the late actor Derek Guyler’s fruity BBC voice on the radio news.

But possibly the most thrilling moment of all is when the murder is solved, the cast take their bows and one steps forward to invite you in …

“You are all partners in crime now. Keep the secret of whodunnit locked safely in your hearts!”

I could tell you, but they'd probably have to kill me!


!hey'drobably have to kill me!

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