21-23 April 2016
Reviewed by Pete Allen
Last night I reviewed “The Mousetrap” at The Empire Theatre in Liverpool. I first watched this Agatha Christie’s famous whodunit thriller some 10 years ago in the West End of London. It’s also been running there since 1952 and has been performed over 25,000 times. It’s a production with a small cast of only eight, set in the 1950s.In the opening scenes we meet the proprietors of Monkswell Manor, Mollie and Giles Ralston, played by Anna Andreson and Nick Barclay.These newlyweds recently opened the Manor as a guesthouse in the home to make their millions.
In the background, the audience can hear a news bulletin on the radio, indicating that a murderer is on the loose, describing the exact clothing that he, or she, may have been wearing. We then meet the remaining cast members as they enter the Manor as house guests, all dressed similar to the alleged murderer.
The first guest to arrive at the hotel is Christopher Wren (Oliver Gully). Wren is a hyperactive young man who acts in a peculiar manner. Wren admits he is running away from something, but refuses to say what. Giles takes an immediate dislike to Wren’s camp demeanour and the fact that his wife, Mollie actually enjoys his company.
Mrs Boyle (Louise Jameson) and Major Metcalf (Tony Boncza) both arrive in a local taxi but by are no means together. The Major is retired from the Army but there is little more known about him. Mrs Boyle, god love her is every man’s nightmare of a mother in law. She is arrogant and pleased by nothing. She also takes an immediate dislike to Wren.
Miss Casewell (Amy Downham) then arrives at the Guest house. She is the last of the booked guests to arrive and is young, pretty but appears very manly and extremely uptight. Just as the guests are being showed to their rooms for the evening a final mysterious character appears at the door, asking for a room, stating that his car had spun off the road in the heavy snow. He identifies himself (in a foreign accent) as Mr Paravicini. Luckily though, Mollie locates the last spare room and offers it to him for the night.
The next afternoon, Mollie answers the phone to a Superintendent of Police, indicating that a local Sgt is on route to the Manor house to speak to them all. A short time later Sgt Trotter (Lewis Collier) appears at the door introducing himself to the guests. Trotter briefly explains the reasons for his attendance, relating to a local murder of a Maureen Lyon in London. Trotter then reveals that a notebook was located at the scene of the murder and in it was the address of Monkswell Manor. All the characters are then questioned regards their knowledge of the victim and her family. Everyone, as expected denies any knowledge and the suspicion grows; who was it and why? Mollie tries to use the phone but realises that the line is faulty… or is it!
Trotter then tours the house, checking for clue’s whilst Major Metcalf confronts Mrs Boyle and it’s revealed that she was one of the magistrates who had dealt in the case of the victims foster children. Mrs Boyle denies that she has any responsibility for what eventually happened to the children there or any part in the murder of Mrs Lyon.
Throughout the evening Giles and Mollie become suspicious of each other and the guests become increasingly nervous. Whilst the guests are all resting in their rooms, Sergeant Trotter traces the phone wire to find out if it has been cut. Mrs Boyle remains in the lounge, on her own, listening to the radio.
In the background we can hear the dulcet tones of “Three Blind Mice”, playing on the piano by an unknown person whilst also being whistled by another unknown person somewhere upstairs.
Then, the moment we’ve all been waiting for. A hand appears from behind the door and off go the lights, followed by a scuffle and the sound of a short, sharp scream. Moments later, Mollie walks into the room, turns on the lights and finds Mrs Boyle dead on the floor.
Well! Who did it? You work it out, the clues are there and more are soon to appear. The frustrated Sgt Trotter re-appears and re-enacts the events of the murder of Mrs Boyle questioning all the suspects. Each person is then sent to another person’s last destination, prior to the murder of Boyle, in the hope that one suspect will make a mistake.
The identity of the murderer is then disclosed in a true British style with a “spine tingling twisting finale”. But, let it be told that when you watch the Mousetrap you never, ever disclose the identity of the murderer. A must see production with excellent performances from all the cast, especially Oliver Gully playing Christopher Wren.
I would rate it 4/5 due to the fact that it’s a low budget production with a small cast, however it’s fun to watch and full of twists.
Tickets cost from £10 to £41.40 (plus £2.85 transaction fee).
The Mousetrap is at the Liverpool Empire until 23 April 2016. For more information or to book tickets click here or call the box office on 0844 8713017.
Liverpool Empire Theatre, Lime Street, Liverpool, Merseyside, L1 1JE | 0844 8713017