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  • Writer's pictureAlex First

Agatha Christie's The Mousetrap (Comedy Theatre) - 120 minutes, plus a 20-minute interval

Agatha Christie’s The Mousetrap opened in London’s West End on 25th November 1952 and has been running continuously (save for the COVID lockdown) ever since.

It is fast approaching 30,000 performances, making it by far the longest running show (of any type) in the modern era.

Photos by Brian Geach

The play is also known for its twist ending – the audience asked not to reveal whodunnit upon leaving the theatre.

The Mousetrap began life as a short radio play – broadcast on 30th May 1947 – called Three Blind Mice in honour of Queen Mary, the consort of King George V.

The piece had its origins in the real-life case of a boy, Dennis O'Neill, who died while in the foster care of a Shropshire farmer and his wife in 1945.

So, to what I can say about the plot of the stage play.

It is set in 1952 in a British home converted into a guest house by a young couple – Mollie and Giles Ralston (Anna O’Byrne and Alex Rathgeber).

It concerns the interactions of them with their five guests and a police sergeant.

He – Detective Sergeant Trotter (Tom Conroy) – arrives in the wake of a murder in London.

We hear about the killing on the radio as Mrs Ralston prepares for the arrival of their first guests.

That is despite blizzard conditions outside, with snow falling heavily.

Before interval the tentacles of the murder in the British capital will be felt 30 miles away, namely in the guest house, which is snowed in.

Inside the stately home, the finger of blame is being pointed and no-one is beyond suspicion.

I thoroughly enjoyed The Mousetrap from the get-go, namely from when the characters were introduced.

The Ralstons were only married a year earlier. As the guests arrive, we gain some insight into their character traits – childish, combative, authoritarian, insular and questioning.

The Mousetrap combines old world charm with good humour and a cracking plot.

A dramatic incident occurs just before interval to set up the second half interrogation.

Each character is quizzed and, of course, pleads innocent.

The performances are terrific.

Anna O’Byrne sets the scene by fussing over detail, before Alex Rathgeber arrives to assist with final preparations for the Ralstons’ first intake.

Laurence Boxhall is a scene stealer as nervous prankster and architecture student Christopher Wren.

Gerry Connolly is lively, cheeky and provocative as Mr Paravicini.

Geraldine Turner presents a stern, argumentative visage as former magistrate Mrs Boyle.

Charlotte Friels is secretive as Miss Casewell.

Adam Murphy brings a stiff upper lip quality to Major Metcalf.

Tom Conroy is all business as the good sergeant, who arrives on skis to solve the mystery.

I greatly appreciated the set design, distinguished by traditional wood panelling, stained glass windows and armchairs, enhanced by the lighting.

In other words, attention to detail served to heighten a most positive experience.

Direction by Robyn Nevin is flawless.

It is not hard to see why Agatha Christie’s The Mousetrap has well and truly passed the test of time.

Steeped in nostalgia, it remains intriguing and a piece of theatrical excellence.

The 70th anniversary production of The Mousetrap is playing at The Comedy Theatre until 26th March, 2023.


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