It’s quite the occasion to be sitting in a theatre, awaiting the curtain to rise, and knowing that, in a couple of hours’ time, you will be asked by a murderer to keep a secret – and in so doing become a member of the ‘club that never tells’.
Agatha Christie thought that her play The Mousetrap – which made its world premiere at The Theatre Royal in Nottingham in 1952 – might run for about 8 months. But of course it’s still going strong today, playing to full houses who want to know what all the fuss is about. And of course ‘who did it?’!
The famous murder-mystery writer eventually said that the secret to the long-running show’s success might have been the fact that: “It is the sort of play you can take anyone to. It’s not really frightening. It’s not really horrible. It’s not really a farce, but it has a little bit of all these things and perhaps that satisfies a lot of different people.”
But of course it’s much more than that which has ensured this play’s longevity and why people still flock to see it. For one thing, we know that the Queen of Suspense will have come up with a cracking story. For another, the play delivers everything that everyone who loves a whodunnit adores.
First, the setting: a gathering in a newly-opened guesthouse in the middle of nowhere. Then, the people – a selection of strong characters all hiding their own secrets. In the background is the murder of a woman which we hear about on the radio. And then the weather…a snowstorm which traps everyone in the house. Classic!
Of course I can’t go into the plot here but what I can say is that you’ll be hooked and – come the interval – will be placing bets on who you think did the deed.
Susan Penhaligon plays cantankerous and crabby Mrs Boyle with perfection – a tweed-wearing whinger who can’t believe the guest house doesn’t have ‘staff’ . Then there’s David Alcock as the delightfully shadowy Mr Paravicini who arrives unexpectedly when his car gets stuck in the snow. Nick Biadon and Harriett Hare play posh young guesthouse owners Giles and Mollie Ralston with energy and we loved Lewis Chandler as Christopher Wren, the young architect-in-training who lit up the stage and brought comedy to the role with ease. Other cast members include Saskia Vaigncourt-Strallen as the mysterious Miss Casewell, John Griffiths as the silently watchful Major Metcalf and Geoff Arnold as the down-to-earth Sgt Trotter, who comes to investigate goings-on.
I’m afraid that’s all I can say at this moment in time, apart from – go and see it for yourselves, and see if you can guess what’s going on.
The Mousetrap is on at The New Theatre, Cardiff until 5th October. More details here: newtheatrecardiff.co.uk