WE have to thank two queens for The Mousetrap, the worlds longest initial running play.
Opening in the Ambassadors Theatre on 6th October 1952 and moving to the St Martin’s Theatre in 1974, where it continues to run successfully today, the play has its roots in an enquiry by the BBC in 1947 to the then Queen Mother, Mary, asking if she had any particular request for a programme they would like to broadcast in honour of her seventieth birthday. Back came the reply that an Agatha Christie play would be very nice.
Mrs Christie, the “queen” of mystery writers, responded with a half-hour radio play entitled Three Blind Mice. Five years later, with a name change to accommodate the fact that there had been a West End show a few years previously bearing the name Three Blind Mice, the play re-emerged on stage as a full- length presentation entitled The Mousetrap, a title inspired by the play-within-a- play in Shakespeare’s Hamlet.
Just why it has become the phenomenal success it has is difficult to say.
Like all Agatha Christie originals it is expertly constructed, with eight beautifully drawn characters delivering crisp dialogue which sends the plot twisting and turning in so many directions that at sometime or another you are certain that everyone of those on stage must be the murderer. It is also very much a creature of its time, the 1950s. The characters, their style of speech and response to any given situation belong firmly in that period.
Producers Stephen Waley-Cohen and Adam Spiegel, fully aware that this is a period piece, have gathered a team around them that has produced a set that really looks like an old manor house converted into a guest house, perfect 1950s clothes, and voices and music coming from the wireless that reminded you of the days when BBC English not regional accents were the norm in Broadcasting House.
Under Gareth Armstrong’s direction, eight very definite characters emerge, scattering red herrings around the stage like confetti at a wedding. Gwyneth Strong’s Mrs Boyle (photographed) forever complaining, retired magistrate David Alcock’s typical mysterious stranger Mr Paravicini, the forthright questioning police seargeant Trotter of Geoff Arnold, Harriett Hare and Nick Biadon getting more and more edgy and suspicious as Mollie and Giles Ralston, the newly wed couple running the guest house, a lovely camp neurotic Christopher Wren, would-be architect, from Lewis Chandler, for the period a decidedly masculine Miss Casewell from Saskia Vaigncourt-Strallen, and John Griffiths typical bluff retired army officer Major Metcalf.
To find out which one of them meets their doom and who dun it, you will have to catch up with this polished touring production, and when you do, promise to join the elite club of those who know the answers, but are sworn to secrecy.
The Mousetrap is at Bristol Hippodrome until Wednesday 26th June