This was part of a 60th anniversary tour, over 60 weeks, for a show still running in its home theatre of St Martins in London, coincidentally almost identical in capacity to the Garrick. The Mousetrap opened at The Ambassadors Theatre in 1952, with Richard Attenborough and his fellow film star wife, Sheila Sim, in the roles of Sgt.Trotter and Mollie Ralston, the Proprietor of Monkswell Manor. The rest is history.
The Agatha Christie penned plot has a group of people gathered in a country house cut off by the snow only to discover that there is a murderer in their midst. A talented cast is led by Jonathan Woolf as Sgt Trotter, with Hollyoaks’ Henry Luxemburg and Joanna Croll as the newlywed owners of the newly-converted hotel. Chris Gilling (ITV’s Law and Order, BBC1’s Silk) is the mysterious army retiree Major Metcalf, while Michael Fenner arrives as the foreign Mr Paravicini. Ryan Saunders entertains as the camp Christopher Wren. the grouchy old woman magistrate Mrs Boyle is gloriously grumpily played by Anne Kavanagh, Ellie Jacob is similarly truculent as Miss Casewell.
Inevitably the question is how this play, now an institution for its record run, and as British as Buckingham Palace, stands up as a piece of drama? Is the myth greater than the reality? I am pleased to report that it does stand on its own two feet, and in some style. It is a formulaic Christie murder mystery, there are false leads, shocks, twists and turns, and some gentle humour, but it works. Few guess the perpetrator at the end, whose identity the cast still ask us, the audience, to keep secret in this multi media age. Although the “Whodunnit ?” is of its time on the stage, the genre is still popular, now popularised to inject periodic drama into television soap operas.
Director Ian Watt-Smith keep proceedings moving briskly whilst the set oozes period charm. Drama and plays can be tough sells at the theatre box office and it is to the Garricks’ credit that it has taken the show for a week. The full house and memorable production fully vindicate the original confidence shown. The Mousetrap runs till Saturday 19th April.