Reviewed by Linda Curtain
There is murder and mystery in Plymouth this week with the arrival of Agatha Christie’s vintage stage play ‘The Mousetrap’ at the Theatre Royal.
Starting out as a radio play entitled ‘Three Blind Mice’, it was renamed ‘The Mousetrap’ prior to opening as a stage play in Nottingham in 1952 and it has certainly stood the test of time. Having been running continuously now for around 68 years, it is the longest running play in the world and continues to attract great following wherever it is staged.
I was intrigued to attend this play last evening as despite its fame I knew little about the storyline. The Theatre Royal Plymouth is a great setting for such an iconic production. Located on the main Royal Parade in Plymouth, arriving by car or public transport is very easy. The huge Messenger statue stands outside the theatre to welcome you!
On arrival last evening, the theatre was very busy with the awaiting audience making full use of the cafe and bar areas. With helpful front of house staff, we soon found our seats and when the lights dimmed and a terrifying scream was heard, we were soon fully involved in the play.
The opening scene had us transported into the Great Hall of Monkswell Manor guest house where new owners Mollie and Giles Ralston – played on this tour by Edith Kirkwood and Adam Lilley – were awaiting the arrival of their first guests. A radio announcement informs them of a murder which had occurred nearby. As the guests arrived, is soon became clear that they all fitted the description of the suspected murderer – wearing a dark coat, a light scarf and a felt hat!
First to arrive was the very flamboyant Mr Christopher Wren – played by George Naylor who executed the role with just the right amount of comedy and energy. Next came Mrs Boyle – a rather cantankerous elderly lady played brilliantly by established actress Susan Penhaligon. Major Metcalf arrived soon after – a quiet but somewhat arrogant ex-army gentleman played by John Griffiths. The last expected guest to arrive was Miss Casewell – a manly young lady which was played by Laura Costello. The set of the main hall where they were all assembled was authentic to the ‘50s setting – the room is still true to the original room in the 1952 opening production with every detail replicated. An unexpected fifth guest arrived – Mr Paravicini played by Steven Elliott – a very charming but slightly sinister character, who was stranded in the heavy snow after his car overturned and was seeking accommodation for the night.
As the guests settled in, talk soon turned to the nearby murder and with the arrival of DS Trotter – on skis! – more details of the murder were released. Martin Allanson played this role well following in the footsteps of Richard Attenborough who was DS Trotter in the opening play in 1952. Listening to the backstories of all the guests, they all seemed to have something to hide but when another murder occurs in the house, the pace to find the murderer stepped up. You could tell by the complete silence of the theatre audience as they listened to every word, that everyone was trying to solve the puzzle – with so many red herrings this was no easy feat!
With such authentic costumes, stage set and talented cast the classic storyline of Agatha Christie’s work shone through. Accents were brilliantly maintained throughout and the diction so clear you could hear every word. The occasional playing of the tune Three Blind Mice added extra drama and tension to the production.
If you wish to discover who the murderer is however, you will need to go along to the Theatre Royal Plymouth before Saturday as nobody will tell you – the audience is sworn to secrecy as the final curtain closes!!
A very enjoyable production of the classic play by the queen of crime – Agatha Christie.
A well-deserved ***** star rating.
Tickets cost from £16 to £40 (booking fees may apply).
The Mousetrap is at the Theatre Royal in Plymouth from 24-29 February 2020, for more information or to book tickets visit www.theatreroyal.com or call the box office on 01752 267222.
Theatre Royal Plymouth, Royal Parade, Plymouth, PL1 2TR | 01752 267222