Dir. Ian Watt-Smith, Theatre Royal, 12th – 17th September
A murder has been committed. A voice on the radio describes the circumstances, and asks listeners to look out for a man wearing a dark overcoat and felt hat. A man wearing that exact outfit darts into the room, and hides a parcel. A sense of knowing expectation descends upon the audience.
So far, so Agatha Christie. You’d be forgiven for thinking that The Mousetrap is fairly predictable murder mystery fare; a classic whodunnit where the culprit is slowly and steadily revealed. But Agatha Christie is anything but obvious: The Mousetrap, which has been continually running in London since 1952, currently holds the world record for the longest-running London production, and has proved to be enduringly popular despite the creators’ initial predictions. But is the hype entirely justified?
Directed by Ian Watt-Smith, Sir Stephen Waley-Cohen and Adam Spiegel’s production of The Mousetrap is certainly worth going to see: a visual treat, its set design is exquisite both in its objective beauty and its evocation of the time period in which the play is set. From the first moment, the world of The Mousetrap feels highly convincing: the dialogue is crisp, with no word out of place, and the characterisation is precise and thoroughly enjoyable. The cast is impeccable; Sarah Whitlock’s turn as the imperviously grumbling Mrs Boyle, and Oliver Gully’s excitable Christopher Wren are definite highlights.
But yet something seems to be missing. Despite its clear entertainment value, the quality that has kept The Mousetrap in the public’s hearts for so long seems to be lacking here: the simplicity and comparative sparseness of the plot mean that occasionally there’s an unnecessary lull in the action when the audience should ideally be racked with suspense. Although a narrative as tightly plotted as Agatha Christie’s classic Murder on the Orient Express is arguably too complex for the theatre, I can’t help thinking that The Mousetrap pales in comparison with other Christie mysteries. Although the final twist is certainly unexpected, it falls a little flat: a slightly disappointing ending to an otherwise exciting production.