Sunday 15 April 2012

'The Mousetrap'

Last week I was lucky enough to see Agatha Christie’s The Mousetrap performed at St. Martin’s Theatre in London. Approaching it’s sixtieth anniversary (quite an achievement I think you’ll agree), and about to embark on its first national tour, this seemed like the right time to finally find out what all the fuss is about!

The theatre itself is quite small, which was actually really rather nice for this kind of production. There was a board telling you what number performance you were at (I wish I’d made a note of what it was, but alas, did not). They were clearly proud to be housing the world’s longest running play, and rightly so.

I wasn’t quite sure what to expect from the play itself. I’ve only ever read one Agatha Christie novel, and knew little about the plot, so beyond it being a murder mystery, all was to be revealed. The initial murder happens with the curtains down, you hear the drama, and the curtain rises on a guest house reception room. There will be no scene changes (something that is quite unfamiliar to me, being used to large, dramatic ballets and musicals with impressive, ever-changing sets), but it really worked. The fact that it remains in the one room helps draw you in, and creates a real sense of suspense. The characters are trapped at the guest house, a snow blizzard occurring outside (illustrated nicely with snow building on the window ledges, and a wind that blows the window around whilst open, the latch tapping eerily against the pane). In a world where we all carry mobiles on our person most of the time, and feel constantly connected it gives you a real sense of how isolated and cut-off you could become. Imagine being in that situation knowing a murderer was amongst you, terrifying!

The audience is introduced to an eclectic array of characters, all seemingly with a secret to hide. By the interval myself and my friends were all completely bamboozled as to who the murderer was. Agatha Christie lays out the plot fantastically; any of them have the potential to be the murderer. It was fantastic hearing the rest of the audience happily trying to work it out, just what you want from a murder mystery.

There was a fantastic subtlety about the play. When a second murder occurs, the lights go down, and you merely see a silhouette rush across the stage. Suspense is built with a slow opening of a side door, and an eerie whistling, truly creepy, and wonderfully done. I think often with modern works a lot of this subtlety is lost, and this, to me, is a real shame. The audience let out a gasp when the murderer was revealed (proof that we were all kept guessing right up until the very last moment).

A brilliant play that completely sucks you in. I am always in awe of the minds that can come up with such clever plots, and I can certainly see why this play has kept going so long. With twists at every turn, and an interesting back story that is revealed in stages, this is certainly not one to miss. Suspenseful, exciting, and actually very humourous, an utterly fantastic play that I hope will continue for many more years to come.

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