Newest Review: ... of ice cream have been sold. Most impressively, the set has only been replaced once during its entire 35 year run at St Martin's Theatre... more
A diamond-class performance
Agatha Christie's The Mousetrap
Member Name: Starlight81
Agatha Christie's The Mousetrap
Advantages: Clever set, intriguing story, excellent acting
Disadvantages: Wikipedia reveals the killer- don't read beforehand!
I had my 30th birthday recently and decided I'd finally go and watch The Mousetrap. I'd wanted to see it for a while, being a big fan of Whodunnits, and it certainly didn't disappoint. This may even be the best thing I've ever seen on stage, though of course you can't really compare this to something like one of Lloyd Webbers musicals. They are just completely different types of performance.
Let's start with a bit of the history, which is actually very interesting in itself. First off, this show is the longest running of any kind, in the world, ever, which tells you something about how good it is. This year is its diamond jubilee, so it's been on stage for as long as the Queen has worn her crown. In fact, if London is a bit of a trek for you, check out their website, as the show is going on tour for its 60th anniversary celebrations, and you may be able to see it somewhere more local to you: www.the-mousetrap.co.uk
There have now been more than 24,000 performances, and if you go and watch it at its home of 35 years, St Martin's Theatre, you will see an electronic screen in the foyer which will tell you the exact performance number you'll be watching.
To give you a few interesting facts from the website: in its 60 years, there have been 382 actors and actresses appearing in the play (even though the cast only includes 8 characters), 116 miles of shirts have been ironed and over 415 tons of ice cream have been sold.
Most impressively, the set has only been replaced once during its entire 35 year run at St Martin's Theatre, to the same design as the original, and it was replaced over a weekend with no loss of performances!
It's hard to explain exactly why this particular play is so popular, but I think it's very impressive that in 60 years, the mystery of who the killer is remains a well-kept secret. This is partly due to the fact that a cast member asks you at the end of the play to 'keep the secret close to your heart,' in order to keep the performance alive. Apparently people respect this wish.
The Mousetrap began life as a radio play entitled Three Blind Mice, written in honour of Queen Mary, consort of King George V, and broadcast in 1947. It was then made into a short story with the same title, but Agatha Christie requested that the story was never published as long as the play was still running; as a result it has never been published in the UK, though it is available in the States. The story is based on a real life case- the death of a young boy in the care of a farmer and his wife in 1945.
I'm sure that even if you've never read an Agatha Christie story, you will still be familiar with the structure of a murder mystery, the chosen genre of The Queen of Crime. The play more or less follows this typical structure- we are first introduced to each of the relevant characters, who all become suspects when a murder is committed about halfway through the play. After the murder the policeman who is present begins to interview all the suspects and eventually the truth is revealed, though not until the very end, so you have plenty of time to work it out for yourself.
As I said, the story is based on the real life case I mentioned. The idea is that somebody in London has been murdered right at the beginning of the play, and offstage, and the story is in all the newspapers and on the radio. The stage setting is a newly-opened guest house run by a young couple, and each guest arrives in turn on this, their opening night, from a dark, cold and snowy evening.
What is really clever about the stage set is that it remains the same throughout the entire play, and is deceptively simple.The whole stage is taken up by the living room of the guest house, with a log fire in one corner, which actually glows cosily when stoked up, a couple of overstuffed chairs, a sofa and a few rugs. However, exiting to the wings are several doors which we are told lead to different rooms of the house, or upstairs to the guests' bedrooms. You can't help believing that the drawing room really is off to the right hand side, and that the kitchen disappears off to stage left. At the back is an opening window which, whenever it is opened, swings open and shut violently in the stormy weather from 'outside.' To add to the atmosphere, each character arrives bundled up in a coat, scarf and hat with 'snow' covering their clothes. To add the finishing touches, lamps are switched on at 'night-time,' creating the illusion of the passing of time.
Added to this very clever stage set is the subtle humour and some tremendous acting. Every conversation I overheard during the interval related to everyone's various theories on the killer. Just enough is revealed before the interval for you to be able to speculate before sitting back down. I didn't guess the killer, personally, but two of my family did, and when I went back in to the second half I realised that they were probably right.
Unfortunately the killer is revealed in the Wikipedia article relating to this play, so if you don't want to know then DON'T READ IT! I'm very glad I didn't look at the article before watching The Mousetrap, as it reveals the killer without any warning that it is about to do so, following on, as it does, from a paragraph about how the audience are asked not to reveal the killer for the sake of future audiences! Slightly ironic and totally unnecessary, I think!
One last point to mention is that St Martin's is an old theatre, so there isn't a lot of legroom, but it was just about comfortable enough for my fiancé, who is 6'2". If you're any taller, I recommend asking for a seat at the end of an aisle!
Ticket prices are between £16 and £41 and performances are Monday to Saturday at 7.30pm with a matinee at 3pm on Tuesdays and 4pm on Saturdays. You can book on the web address provided above.
Summary: Well-worth the trip to London