Review by Dave Stringer
What does the theatre-goer expect when attending a production of a classic Agatha Christie whodunnit? A group of people – each with their own strange traits – stranded in a country house? Larger-than-life characters dressed in tweeds and speaking in plummy accents? A mass of red herrings as you search for clues? One of the group dead before the end of Act One? You will be pleased to know that this production of The Mousetrap ticks each of these boxes with aplomb.
The Mousetrap began life as a short drama for the radio called Three Blind Mice that was written for the 80th birthday of Queen Mary. Five years later Christie turned this thirty-minute vignette into a full-blown play that – after a short run in the provinces with Richard Attenborough in the cast – began a run at the Ambassador’s Theatre in November 1952. The rest, as they say is history. The Mousetrap has broken all box office records and has been in continuous production somewhere in the UK ever since.
The Mousetrap is based in a country house near to London that has been turned into a guest house by recently-married couple Giles (Nick Biadon) and Mollie Ralston (Harriet Hare). Their first night of opening has attracted a motley crew of guests – the somewhat juvenile Christopher Wren (Lewis Chandler); the irascible Mrs Boyle for whom nothing is good enough (Gwyneth Strong who played Cassandra in Only Fools and Horses and Geraldine Clough in Eastenders); the mysterious and evasive Miss Casewell (Saskia Vaigncourt-Strallen); and ex-army officer Major Metcalf (understudied by Nick Wyschna). The guest list is completed when the mysterious and flamboyant Italian Mr Paravicini (David Alcock) arrives claiming that his car has been involved in an accident.
It is not long before the residents realise that the worsening weather means that they are snowed in. Events take a sinister turn when the intrepid Sergeant Trotter (Geoff Arnold) arrives on skis to announce that one of the people in the house is a murderer and another is a potential victim.
The action takes place in the hotel’s lounge and the audience is convincingly transported to the 1950s with the dialogue delivered in early BBC style. The costumes and content of the radio broadcasts are of the period with props adding to the experience.
The play is very well acted throughout and this is a slick production that allows the audience member to be thoroughly engaged and entertained. I found the experience wholly absorbing and the time just flew by. This play should be on the must-see list for every serious theatre-goer and this production more than matched expectations.
I would love to tell you more of the investigative cul de sacs that my brain explored as I tried to identify the culprit. It would give me great pleasure to indicate the clues that would lead the viewer to pick out the oddball murderer from a cast of misfits. And I just bet that you want to know who doesn’t make it through to Act Two.
Unfortunately, after the cast had received some very warm applause from a packed audience, Sergeant Trotter swore us to silence and to keep the secrets in our hearts.
So, just in case I take a weekend break in an isolated hotel in the near future I will play it safe and advise you to hurry along to the Regent Theatre, Hanley before the short run ends.
The Mousetrap has a running time of approximately 2 hours and 15 minutes including interval and completes its run on June 29th.
Tickets are available from atgtickets.com/Stoke or 0844 871 7649