The Mousetrap

Agatha Christie
Festival Theatre, Malvern

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Suspects in order of appearance 1: Joelle Dyson (Mollie Ralston) Credit: Matt Crockett
Suspect 2: Laurance Pears (Giles Ralston) Credit: Matt Crockett
Suspect 3: Elliot Clay (Christopher) Credit: Matt Crockett
Suspect 4: Todd Carty (Major Metcalf) Credit: Matt Crockett
Suspect 5: Essie Barrow (Miss Casewell) Credit: Matt Crockett
Suspect 6: Gwyneth Strong (Mrs Boyle) Credit: Matt Crockett
Suspect 7: Kieran Brown (Mr Paravicini) Credit: Matt Crockett
Joseph Reed (Det Sgt Trotter) Credit: Matt Crockett

It was the first play I ever saw in the theatre, probably my parents’ first too. Harold Macmillan had not long been Prime Minister, Educating Archie was the top TV programme at the time, "Volare" the record number 1 by Domenico Modugno. Whatever happened to him?

Agatha Christie’s whodunnit unexpectedly proved to have a longer shelf-life than any of them, longer you might say than a tin of corned beef. And although it still has a flavour of the 1950s, The Mousetrap, now in its 70th anniversary tour, retains its power to spring a surprise on the unwary.

I suspect that for some in the capacity house it was their first time in a theatre for many years. And that like me, 60 years the wiser since my Christie baptism, they failed to spot the killer until the end.

Fashions come and go, but the classic thriller formula lives on—the Cluedo-like country house, library, drawing room and so on, isolated by snow (reachable only by ski! In Berkshire!), and the assembled guests including an unexpected arrival. And when the police sergeant utters the magic words, "there are six of you sitting here now and one of you is a killer," I wanted to cheer and shout. (To make matters easier, one suspect has by now been eliminated. Fatally.)

A capable cast do the piece justice by respecting the characters as originally conceived: Joelle Dyson and Laurence Pears are the owners with uncertain pasts, Elliot Clay the awkward Christopher—Christie being ahead of her time in presenting gay roles—Gwyneth Strong (Cassandra in Only Fools and Horses) a grumbly Mrs Boyle, Todd Carty as Maj. Metcalf (unrecognisable in style from his days as Mark Fowler in Eastenders), Essie Barrow as the intriguing Miss Casewell, Kieran Brown as teasingly mysterious Mr Paravicini and Joseph Reed as the cool DS Trotter.

The show continues to Newcastle, Coventry, Yeovil, Southampton, York, Cardiff, Plymouth, Lichfield, Stoke-on-Trent, Woking, Perth, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Cheltenham, Milton Keynes, Sheffield, Inverness, Aberdeen, Blackpool, Hereford, Chelmsford, Dundee, Derby, Bristol, Cambridge, Torquay, Buxton, Swansea, Truro, Peterborough, Kings Lynn, Guildford, Bromley and Sunderland.

Unlike the film adaptation, which offered alternative endings, the play has only one. My wife spotted the guilty party early on. I can now exclusively reveal that it was... What? ... Who’s that behind me? ... Aaargh!

Reviewer: Colin Davison

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