By Katie May Huxtable
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
NO SPOILERS ARE INCLUDED IN THIS REVIEW.
For me to reveal the ins and outs of Agatha Christie’s The Mousetrap is classed as the equivalent of treachery in the performing arts industry and, from my knowledge, slip-ups have somehow been avoided. After running for over 60 years – and earning the title of the continuous longest-running play in history – we must come to the conclusion that those at The Mousetrap across the years must’ve been doing something right. And that they have.
I first went to see The Mousetrap back in 2014 and became enthralled in its world of mystery. Seeing it again, despite already knowing its best-kept secret, was just as enjoyable as the first time. For me, this only confirms that the performance doesn’t rely on its shock factor ending to be a good show. It’s a dedicated cast and all the added twists and turns along the way that has cemented The Mousetrap as the long-running success that it is.
The Mousetrap begins with what can only be described as a typical setting for a murder mystery- a secluded guest house shut off from the world around them, a murder in the midst of a snowstorm and 8 equally able characters who each seemed to have come right out of a game of Cluedo left to provide us with red herrings and the most untimely situations to set your mind whirring.
As for the murderer- who really would have expected it? But I am to stick to my word, and on request of the murderer at the final curtain call, I’d like to hope that I, and everyone else in the room, will keep the secret and allow the legacy of The Mousetrap to continue.
The first scene begins in the newly opened guest house of Giles and Mollie Ralston, a very classic setting with four doors, plenty of stairs and hiding places which provided an image of the house continuing off stage. Here Giles and Mollie are waiting upon their first new arrivals, as a radio report blares out the news of a murder. The police are searching for a man of average height, wearing a dark overcoat, light scarf and soft felt hat. We then learn to discover that both Mollie and Giles Ralston – and the majority of the guest house visitors – also own items of clothing that fit this description adding an essence of humour around the audience’s question of ‘whodunnit?’.
As it continues, the performance develops the perfect recipe to a murder mystery: an uncountable amount of red herrings, and heaps of foreshadowing- both brought together with some classic humour that had the audience in laughter.
The first act does seem to drag slightly with the obvious use of pointless lines to set the audience in the wrong direction. Fortunately, the arrival of Detective Trotter, who ski’s in to warn the household that another murder is foreseen to take place there brings with him the now turned sinister tune of three blind mice, the secrets of those involved confided in others, and the murder of another key character.
If Act 1 was a tease, it had nothing on Act 2. Every few minutes my view on who was the murderer would change, was it the foreign Mr Paravincini who appeared from the corners in the manner of a vampire? Or the young Miss Casewell, whose troubled past was hindering her future? Or maybe the sarcastic Giles Ralston, who had been to London on the day of the murder and neglected to tell his wife? To find that out, you really must take a visit because for me to commit the crime of revealing the ending of The Mousetrap may lead to my own murder by those who have worked so hard to get it where it is.
A variety of different tension-building techniques were so well used throughout The Mousetrap. The original murder was revealed to the audience during the first minute of the production, portrayed through the use of a scream at the repeated shout for police. Developing the murder in complete darkness gave the scene much more of a twisted tone and assisted in revealing very little to those watching. The repetition of the tune three blind mice made me, and many others, cower a little at how a children’s nursery rhyme could be made so eerie, and the use of lighting to assist in forming such an eerie atmosphere was well used to its advantage. Leading up to the murder the lighting seemed to darken as night came closer in, before being switched off completely during the crime at the end of the first half. After the murderer was revealed, I also realised how the darkening of the lights had also occurred at one other point in the performance. This was a key moment of foreshadowing that I feel slightly ashamed to not have picked up on.
The play really did have my mind set to over-drive for the whole evening, was swift and very understandable. Everything was used to its advantage and other than small sections during the first half where you are naturally waiting eagerly for something big to happen, the whole performance was thoroughly enjoyable and encompassed the perfect recipe for a classic British mystery.