Agatha Christie’s The Mousetrap is set at The Playhouse Theatre Edinburgh this week (Monday 27th to Wednesday 29th May), and it is not just a classic work of theatre but, since its original first performance in 1952, it has become a theatrical institution. As so many people reading this review will probably know, this story revolves around guests at the newly opened Monkswell Manor guest house who find themselves cut off from the outside world by a snowstorm whilst a killer is on the loose and potentially amongst them. To add to their woes, the telephone line has also been cut - and not a mobile phone in sight to spoil the plot.
This production is from producers Sir Stephen Waley-Cohen and Adam Spiegel, and production quality standards are as you would expect high. Any Agatha Christie story always seems to bring out the best in any cast’s performance, and this one is no exception. There is something about Agatha’s stories that audiences simply love and characters in them that actors just love to play. Our cast for this show are
Harriett Hare - Mollie Ralston
Nick Biadon - Giles Ralston
Lewis Chandler - Christopher Wren
Gwyneth Strong - Mrs Boyle
David Alcock - Mr Paravicini
John Griffiths - Major Metcalf / Also Resident Director
Saskia Vaigncourt-Strallen - Miss Casewell
Geoff Arnold - Sgt Trotter
At its heart, The Mousetrap is a dark psychological thriller, but also weaving its way throughout this tight script is a lot of humour, and perhaps having most fun with that humour is Lewis Chandler as Christopher Wren. This role is one of the most developed in the whole cast and although it probably rings out many warnings now on the “P.C.” radar of some people for more than a few reasons, it is a role very much of its time and should never be updated to conform. Lewis Chandler obviously understands this role very well and plays it for all the “mild camp” that it is worth at times.
The other solid and well developed role here belongs to Harriett Hare as guest house owner Mollie Ralston. So much of this story depends on having a very good Mollie who can, when needed, act as a counter-balance to Christopher Wren’s actions, and Harriett Hare is very well cast here.
Everyone probably knows the format of these thrillers; most, as here, are set in a single room (always to me the most effective space for any stage play) while the assembled meet their respective dooms and the whole plot in the end is revealed to the assembled survivors. Here, we have a few very nice twists to that format, but of course, along the way we have more “red herrings” than a Soviet Era fishing fleet.
There is a charm to The Mousetrap, and as with many other Agatha Christie plays, it captures a society, class structure and time now long gone (if it ever was there like this to start with). This is a very British slice of “life” and a very clean (as usual) murder story from Agatha Christie.
The one element so often overlooked in any performance is always the theatre, and I was not sure how well this production was going to work at The Playhouse Edinburgh. The reason for that is that theatres are not all the same, and their size and layout lend themselves better to some performances than others. It is rare for The Playhouse to have drama like this as it is a large theatre with a huge stage, and drama like this often works far better in smaller theatre spaces where the audience can almost be in the room setting on stage. That was never going to be a possibility tonight, and the stage set itself was filling up as much of the Playhouse stage as possible, but that still left some obvious space. Despite some loss of intimacy for me in a space this size, the audience’s love of this play and the cast’s skills, performers and orators kept this issue to a minimum, and everything worked far better than I expected.
It is a tradition that no one who has seen The Mousetrap tells anyone who has not who the murder is. After nearly 70 years, I can tell you that the foul deeds are committed by………..
Review by Tom King