The Mousetrap is in Manchester as part of its 70th Anniversary tour. Based on the Agatha Christie radio play and subsequent short story, the production lived up to its reputation.
One of the first things you notice about the play is the stage. A wide, majestic set brings the story to life. Whilst such a huge set may not be crucial to the story, it is something that can be toyed around with, and that it was.
You could see the actors go up and down staircases, get lost in different doors, and struggle to navigate the set. Cast members would stand through the entire width of the set, not letting a single spot go unused. Even the placement of a door is critical as one opens during a murder, but is crucially angled in such a way that the actors can see who it is, but the audience can’t.
The awe-inspiring stage was companied by an equally jaw-dropping background score. The music increased and decreased as the play required. For example, once the twist was revealed, there was no music, just pure silence. However, as it progressed during the play, you heard a far-distant piano or the increasing sound of a radio.
The play also addressed the reason for music. There was never a reason for the existence of music, and if so it was always explained by one of the characters playing it.
At the same time, the acting was amongst the best. Mr Paravicini, played by John Altman, made the best of the character he was given. The veteran actor got out the little quirks of the character as you wanted them to come out.
Paravicin has an accent that reminds you of Hercule Poirot, one of Agatha Cristie’s most famous characters. This often sends viewers into a red-herring of Poirot being the detective when that is not the case.
However, Altman’s accent could have been better. It often came off as a mix of German and French but, rather than building the character, it seemed like a caricature of a sadistic Frenchman.
The other standout performances were Joseph Reed’s Detective and Elliot Clay’s Christopher Wren. Reed got the reaction out of the characters and the audience as he wanted. You feared him when you needed to, you loved him when you were angry, and he took you on the journey of solving the case with him. Meanwhile, Clay made Wren a pitiful character. He is lovable, simply high on life, but you are unsurprised when the sad death of his character, and his past, came out.
While the play had plenty of positives, one thing that I would take an issue with was the pacing. Only 45 minutes into the play did the actual story begin to take hold. 15 minutes more and you had the interval Furthermore, the exposition scenes lasted way longer than they needed to. In some parts, I wished I had the 10 second forward button, to avoid being re-told what I already knew.
Then there was the big reveal. The lack of convincing red herrings doesn’t surprise you about who the murderer is. From the moment of the character’s entry, you can sense a lead-up to them being the murderer. There was no iconic Agatha Cristie detective breakdown of the events, à la Poirot. You just simply know who killed.
The unmissed ideal ending of the ‘perfect’ play is used in The Mousetrap. After the big reveal, a long part is focused on life in the play being brought back to normal. However, the plot by this point is over. People are looking for a chance to applaud the actors and exit in the hall. But you can’t, as you are held back for a little bit longer, for the parts of the story that you are going to forget quickly.
This play does justify the reason for its 70-year-long run. However, it might be for those who prefer plays that were on a roll 70 years ago…
If you do want to watch a murder mystery that doesn’t get too serious but keeps you firmly in the middle of your seat, then this play is for you. It will keep you extremely entertained throughout, either by the uniqueness of it characters or by the nature of the rest of its set up.