Unlike many stage dramas, Agatha Christie’s classic thriller, The Mousetrap, still retains an air of mystery about it. Taking my seat in Cardiff’s New Theatre on Tuesday evening, I couldn’t help but notice that the stage curtain was down. No big reveals of the set or a sneak peek of a character pottering around on the stage, a practice that currently appears to be standard for many modern presentations.
However, The Mousetrap is steeped in tradition, not only for its air of mystery, but also its edge of the seat drama. it’s the longest-running West-End theatrical show (first performed on stage in 1952), so it’s no surprise that when it toured the UK a few years ago, it played to many full houses. For those of us who still haven’t seen The Mousetrap, or want the opportunity to revisit it, the current tour is therefore a welcome opportunity.
Set in a country guest house which has been cut off by the snow, its owners and guests discover that a murderer is in their midst. One by one, each character reveals a skeleton from their cupboard, giving motive to a recently committed murder. However, there is potential that another murder could soon happen, this time at the guest house! The Mousetrap’s motto of “Trust no-one” has never been more relevant.
The Mousetrap tends to keep its characters based in one focal point in the lounge area of the guest house, effectively making use of its set, so that characters can enter and leave via side doors and a staircase. Although this may seem limiting, it soon becomes apparent that the plays environment is claustrophobic. With the characters cut off without any outside help, this increases the tension and drama.
Susan Penhaligon makes a welcome return to the New Theatre stage as fussy hotel guest Mrs Boyle. Prim, proper and off standish, Miss Penhaligon is a delight to watch as she ruffles the feathers of the hotel proprietors and guests.
Running the guesthouse are new proprietors Giles and Mollie Palston, played brilliantly by Nick Biadon and Harriett Hare, with all the mannerisms and style of a young 1950s couple. The pairs chemistry is great and is tested at various points of the play.
Lewis Chandler combines an air of unpredictability and camp with his cheeky but lovable portrayal of colourful and eccentric hotel guest, Christopher Wren. Chandler’s performance and delivery of his dialogue gets laughs and keeps the audience guessing about who he really is… or isn’t!
Saskia Vaigncourt-Strallen as Miss Casewell is another interesting character, a hard exterior with seemingly plenty to hide, but adds much in the way of light and shade of personality to her portrayal as the play progresses.
John Griffiths as The mysterious Major, David Alcock as the slightly unhinged Mr Paravicini and Geoff Arnold as the self-assured, warm, friendly, Sgt Trotter, all add further mystery (and sometimes mayhem) to The Mousetrap’s ever developing plot.
Mixing strong drama with carefully choreographed humour, particularly in scenes written around radio broadcasts, The Mousetrap ensnares the audience into every twist and turn of its magical tale.
Deserved of its reputation as an Agatha Christie classic, no theatregoer should miss this tried and trusted murder mystery. Plus, remember when you do find out who the murderer is, tell no-one!
The Mousetrap continues at Cardiff’s New Theatre until Saturday!