Theatre review: The Mousetrap

The Mousetrap'Anne Kavanagh (Mrs Boyle), Stephen Yeo (Christopher Wren) and Christopher Gilling (Major Metcalf) in The Mousetrap.
The Mousetrap'Anne Kavanagh (Mrs Boyle), Stephen Yeo (Christopher Wren) and Christopher Gilling (Major Metcalf) in The Mousetrap.

I’ve always been fascinated by murder mysteries and they don’t come much better than those penned by Britain’s first lady of crime, Dame Agatha Christie, writes Alan Wooding.

With her Black Coffee ‘whodunit’ featuring Robert Powell as Hercule Poirot having played Milton Keynes Theatre back in the Spring, this week we are treated to arguably Ms Christie’s best known play, The Mousetrap.

Amazingly it’s still wowing St Martin’s Theatre audiences in London’s West End after an astonishing record breaking 62 years while it’s also now on its Diamond Anniversary tour.

I originally saw a version of The Mousetrap some 42 years ago and while I thought I could remember who the dastardly murderer was when I took my seat at Monday’s opening night in Milton Keynes, I soon realised that my recollections were well wide of the mark.

I had originally seen it performed by a Norfolk-based repertory company at The LIttle Theatre in Sheringham, but after seeing three Agatha Christie plays within a few short days, I must confess that they have now become rather mixed up in my mind.

With Monday’s audience asked not to reveal the play’s secrets as they left the theatre, it makes the two-hour show slightly harder to review, save to say that Michael Fenner was great as a rather mysterious Mr Paravicini who liked to play ‘Three Blind Mice’ on a piano.

Then there was the talented Anne Kavanagh who was really irritating as Mrs Boyle who certainly knew how to complain. In fact so annoying were the pair that it made you feel that they ought to become murder victims!

And just as believable was Helen Clapp as Mollie Ralston, the attractive landlady of the newly-opened Monkswell Manor Guest House, all three actors reprising the roles they had enjoyed in the West End production.

Naturally The Mousetrap is littered with red herrings, plenty of suspicious characters and theories which seem to change at every twist and turn, so anyone who hasn’t seen it is in for a real treat.

There’s also plenty of humour, mistrust and clues to keep you guessing throughout this polished performance which is played out entirely in the large sitting room at Monkswell Manor whose newly painted sign is missing its ‘s’.

In fact it’s a bit like a grown up version of Cluedo, except that you already know the room where a murder takes place and while there are candlesticks on show, there is clearly no evidence of a piece of lead piping, a rope or dagger. Oh! and the butler certainly didn’t do it as there isn’t one!

Luke Jenkins is resourceful police detective Sergeant Trotter who arrives on stage courtesy of an unusual mode of transport but it’s Stephen Yeo who kept the audience laughing with his brilliant portrayal of Christopher Wren (no, not the famous architect). I’m sure Stephen based his character on Hugh Laurie’s creation of Prince George in television’s Black Adder the Third.

The other key players in this long running ‘whodunit’ are Charlotte Latham as the secretive Miss Casewell, Henry Luxemburg as landlady Mollie’s even more secretive husband Giles Ralston and Christopher Gilling as retired Army Major Metcalf whose deep baritone voice will surely mark him out for a host of other roles.

Having been seen by over 600,000 people around the country since this particular production opened in Canterbury back in September 2012, the current 16 venue tour recommenced in Leeds back in August and it continues through to Southend in early December.

Meanwhile The Mousetrap plays Milton Keynes Theatre until this Saturday (September 27) but to find out ‘whodunit’, you need to book your ticket by calling 0844 871 7652 or visiting www.atgtickets.com/miltonkeynes (booking fees apply).