Agatha Christie’s The Mousetrap has been on stage for over 60 years now, making the play a cornerstone of British theatre. The lavish set upon the curtain rising fits in brilliantly with the aesthetic of the Grand Opera House, bringing a murder mystery classic which stands the test of time and looks good doing so. However, it’s not just appearance which makes the performance tick and audiences will be happy to feel the same thrill as audiences 60 years ago in a play which, whilst a little worn around the edges, definitely holds up in terms of tension and suspense.
It’s clear from watching the production that The Mousetrap has inspired several pastiches and parodies of murder mysteries over the years. However, the cast work well not to play up to the legacy the play has left behind, and their commitment to keeping the play as “straight” as can be played is what makes it so compelling. Indeed, most of act one could be a classic farce: secret staircases, characters climbing through windows and props hiding out of sight all make for comical moments. However, it’s a dark sense of humour throughout which the cast really emphasise. Whilst Oliver Gull’s Christopher Wren may appear charming and lively at first, Gull becomes more crazed and forced to put the audience on edge. Laughter turns nervous when Gregory Cox’s comically over the top Paravicini begins to advance sinisterly on Anna Andresen’s Mollie. When a gloved hand appears around the door, it’s clear that the play is taking a darker turn and the constant teetering between comedy and murder is what keeps The Mousetrap gripping until the last moment.
Andresen and Nick Barclay have a delightful chemistry on stage as Mollie and Giles, newlyweds and new guesthouse managers whose amiable temperaments turn sour as the play advances. The two bounce off each other very convincingly especially when confronting one another. Barclay has an excellent command of comic timing one scene and brutish impatience the next which complements Andresen’s almost helpless Mollie very well. Louise Jameson is a fine Mrs Boyle, bristling with negative energy before there is even any cause for distrust in the plot. Whilst some cast members may seem to blend into the scenery on their first appearance, Tony Boncza and Amy Downham both have their moments to shine. Both play their characters more subtly, helping to build suspicion in contrast to melodramatic turns from Gull and Cox.
Lewis Collier does well to add vitality to the second act as Detective Sergeant Trotter, sent to suss out the murderer and potential victim. He gives a good range, almost mirroring the audience’s frustration at being utterly clueless as to who the killer is. True, some of the dialogue in the script is now a little dated or repetitive, but the real tension comes in the gradual teasing of character development and plot twists. For the most part everything is explained, though naturally there are some character quirks which are never resolved and remain almost red-herring like in their presence in the play. However, it’s for the best everything isn’t fully resolved as that would feel a little too polished in the conclusion of the play.
Of course I cannot reveal the ending of the play, but it does come with its fair share of twists and turns which makes for an entertaining climax. I would recommend seeing The Mousetrap at least once: whilst more sceptical spectators might find the production a little dated, its central murder plot is still compelling and given a new lease of life by a talented ensemble. 4/5
Review written by Louise Jones.
The Mousetrap is currently showing at the Grand Opera House York until Saturday 27th February. For more information on the production, visit here…