22-27 September 2014
By Agatha Christie
Director: Ian Watt-Smith
Reviewed by Hilary Whates
I confess to real excitement that at last I would be seeing the iconic Agatha Christie play ‘The Moustrap’ which somehow or other I had failed to go to even though it has been staged non-stop for the last 60 years.
The Diamond Jubilee tour provided that long planned opportunity to see just why it has endured.
An evening out at Milton Keynes Theatre is an occasion from the moment you walk through the door – the gentle sound of the piano drifts towards you creating a wonderfully relaxing atmosphere and the promise of an enjoyable evening’s entertainment.
We were not disappointed. After a rather surprising blood curdling scream the curtain rose to reveal a beautifully designed set – the picture of period chic tranquillity with the window lit to show snowfall, doors, stairs and perfectly arranged furniture. I wanted to move in. In turn we meet the protagonists (how could you tell who was the key character and I am certainly not going to reveal that!) beginning with the arrival of Mollie Ralston very believably played as an anxious but quietly confident owner of the very newly opened Monkswell Manor by Jemma Walker. Next to arrive shaking the snow from his hat was her husband Giles Ralston slightly disparaging and with an air of doing all that was required in a slightly resigned manner.
We hear about the arrangements for the forthcoming guests and then they begin to arrive. We meet Christopher Wren played so well by Steven France – a somewhat engaging, slightly camp and deliberately irritating character who quickly makes himself at home admiring both the house and the furniture. The arrival of Mrs Boyle, excellently portrayed by Jan Walters, who is rather dour than flamboyant constantly disapproving that there are no staff involved in running the Manor. She had travelled in a taxi with the unassuming Major Metcalf (Graham Seed) who had gamely carried her luggage from the bottom of the snowbound drive to the Manor. An additional guest arrives out of the blue – the slightly mischievous Italian Mr Paravicini, portrayed with excellent comic and dramatic timing by Karl Howman. The drama unfolds with the arrival on skis of Detective Sergeant Trotter (Thomas Howe) keen to understand who might be in danger – something we find out right at the end of the first half – which in fact ends how it had begun with a blood curdling scream.
I think it is fair to say that unless you had seen the play before it is impossible to work out ‘whodunit’ – something that has always ensured that Agatha Christie’s work stands the test of time – grappling with what may or may not be clues or red herrings we all tried very hard to identify who the murderer is.
After the short interval we returned to our seats, the curtain rose and we are immediately back in the sitting room with the cast – the audience trying as hard as the frazzled and bemused guests are to work out what is going on. I can’t say too much – in fact we were all asked at the end to keep the tradition and say nothing. So my lips are sealed. All I will say is that this is a play not to be missed. The set, the drama and the acting all superb – an unrivalled evening at the theatre and an absolute must see.
Tickets cost from £21.40 to £36.40 (plus £2.85 transaction fee).
Agatha Christie’s The Mousetrap is at the Milton Keynes Theatre until 27 September 2014. For more information or to book tickets click here or call the box office on 0844 8717652.
Milton Keynes Theatre, 500 Marlborough Gate, Milton Keynes, Bucks, MK9 3NZ