The Mousetrap King’s Theatre

The Mousetrap opened in London in 1952 where it has continued an unbroken run, becoming the longest running show of any description, in the world. The success of the play surprised even author Agatha Christie who thought it might run for 8 months!

The success in some respects is hard to understand. It can’t be described as the funniest play, it’s not cutting edge and the plot can’t be described as outstandingly original. Perhaps it is for those very reasons that The Mousetrap has become such a phenomenon. It is the essence of family friendly theatre and you need not hesitate to take children or grandparents. The longer the play runs the more its fame spreads and the more people want to see it.

I first saw this in London more than 30 years ago when I was young and single, and booked tickets because even then, it was the longest running stage show and any theatre goer wanted to say they had been. As I was thinking about attending the last night’s performance I wondered if it was a reflection on the state of my memory 30 years on or on the play that I couldn’t remember the plot!

The play is set in Monkswell Manor Guest House where the guests are isolated by a snowstorm. The opening scene starts with a radio news broadcast recounting the murder of a local woman and announcing that the Police are looking for someone wearing a dark overcoat, light scarf and a felt hat. As the owners of the guest house arrive at Monkswell Manor, followed at intervals by the guests, each of them is wearing, you guessed it, a dark overcoat, light scarf and felt hat! The play unfolds liberally sprinkled with clues and false leads so that just when you think you have it worked out, something else is revealed which points at another suspect.

When a play has run as long as this it must be difficult to keep the performance fresh and energetic but the cast of this touring production last night certainly did that and more, with each character bringing a different quality to the plot. Stephen Yeo plays Christopher Wren and brings a nicely judged element of farce, Michael Fenner plays Mr Paravicini who brings a touch of the sinister when he keeps singing ‘Three Blind Mice’ and no-one could fail to be irritated by the ever complaining Mrs Boyle, played by Anne Kavanagh. Charlotte Latham plays the reticent Miss Casewell, Christopher Gilling is Major Metcalf to the extent that one can’t imagine him playing any other character. The cast is completed by Luke Jenkins as Sergeant Trotter, Helen Clapp as Mollie Ralston and Henry Luxembourg as Giles Ralston.

I’ve said all I’m going to say about the plot. The audience are asked at the end to keep the secret so if you want to know more, you will have to go and see it for yourself!

Val Clark