Review – The Mousetrap

Oct 30 2012 | By More

★★★☆☆    Museum piece

King’s Theatre: Mon 29 Oct – Sat 3 Nov, 2012

It’s a plucky little touring production of The Mousetrap that has fetched up at the King’s theatre all this week. As any one of its characters might observe – in Home Counties tones so impeccably clipped that they are positively italicised –  “the old gal’s got a lot of go in her yet”.

Sixty years on and, remarkably, if you haven’t seen Agatha Christie’s The Mousetrap then you are unlikely to know whodunit. On the evidence of this production, which is relatively faithful to the London West End original, it is easy to see why.

The cast of The Mousetrap Tour 2012. Photo: Helen Maybanks

The cast of The Mousetrap Tour 2012. Photo: Helen Maybanks

Compared to the telling of it and the revelling in the overblown characterisation of its cast of stock Christie composites, the act of pinning the dirty deed on one of them becomes almost superfluous.

Jemma Walker and Bruno Langley – East Enders‘ Sasha Perkins and Corrie‘s Todd Grimshaw if you like your stars all soaped-up – play recently married couple Mollie and Giles Ralston. They’ve inherited a stately old pile of a mansion from her aunt and, instead of selling up, have decided to turn it into a guest house.

On this, their opening weekend, the snow is falling heavily – and unlikely to stop anytime soon. On the radio, just to give a frisson of what is to come, the news is full of stories of a London murderer who has strangled his female victim in a particularly gruesome crime.

First of the Ralston’s paying guests to shake off the snow is Steven France’s Chrisopher Wren – an outrageously camp young man who claims to be an architect, like his namesake, and who runs around jumping out from behind curtains and whistling nursery rhymes.

Begins to rise above the succession of stereotypes and well-crafted conventions

He’s soon joined by the disapproving Jan Waters as Mrs Boyle – who knows exactly how a guest house should be run. It hardly needs saying that this establishment, without even one live-in servant, is definitely not it. Graham Seed plays the hearty, gung-ho Major Metcalf, who had the misfortune of sharing a taxi with her from the train station.

Karl Howman (Mr Paravacini), Jemma Walker (Mollie Ralston) and Bruno Langley (Giles Ralston). Photo: Helen Maybanks

Karl Howman (Mr Paravacini), Jemma Walker (Mollie Ralston) and Bruno Langley (Giles Ralston). Photo: Helen Maybanks

The final regular arrival through the deepening snowdrifts is Claire Wilkie’s mannish Miss Casewell. “Sex” she barks out disapprovingly when the subject of the London murderer comes up. Sex will have been the motive, not robbery of violence.

Things are beginning to settle down – and you begin to wonder how long the establishing scene can be strung out for – when a certain Mr Paravicini (played by Karl Howman) roles up unannounced. A shaven-headed but sprightly fellow of dubious continental European provenance, he claims that his car has turned over in a snow drift.

Soon, everyone begins to relax into some kind of order. But just as they begin to think that being snow-bound might not be too bad after all, up pop the police in the form of Thomas Howes’ punctilious Detective Sergeant Trotter.

And suddenly this begins to rise above the succession of stereotypes and well-crafted conventions. The murder, it seems, was no red herring, but had its origins in a particularly vicious case of child abuse which had occurred in these parts a decade or so before. And one of the abused seems to be out for revenge.

Buy the script:

Here are echoes of Priestley’s An Inspector Calls combined with self-referential little jokes. There are constant references to melodrama, and one of the survivors even notes: “I knew it was them all the time!” as the twist unwinds and the culprit is revealed.

It is a claim which many will no doubt make on the way home. But the important point is that finding out the culprit’s identity isn’t so much satisfying in the way that the solution of a crossword is satisfying – but satisfies in the way that it is woven into the tapestry of the whole play.

This is certainly a production to have seen – if for no other reason than as a museum piece of 1950s theatre. And, as a production, it is certainly a step above most of the touring Christies which have come round in recent years.

Yet it is also a play which could benefit from new telling. Museum theatre is all very well, but this could be so much sharper. A production which doesn’t merely wink knowingly at Christie’s class structures but works with them more and allows the uncomfortable subplots greater space to bubble up could be an invigorating evening out.

Go see, and ponder on what it might have been, given a frame of reference more in keeping with 25 November 2012, rather than its original opening night on 25 November 1952.

Run ends Saturday 3 November 2012
Running time 2 hrs 30 mins.
King’s Theatre website:
Mousetrap on Tour website:


05 – 10 Nov 2012 Southampton
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12 – 17 Nov 2012 Woking
New Victoria Theatre
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19 – 24 Nov 2012 Malvern
Festival Theatre
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26 Nov – 1 Dec 2012 Bradford
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21 – 26 Jan 2013 Bath
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28 Jan – 2 Feb 2013 Southend
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4 – 9 Feb 2013 Birmingham
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11 – 16 Feb 2013 Newcastle
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18 – 23 Feb 2013 Stoke-on-Trent
Regent Theatre
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25 Feb – 2 Mar 2013 Aberdeen
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4 Mar – 9 Mar  2013 Sheffield
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11 – 16 Mar 2013 Leeds
Grand Opera House
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18 – 23 Mar 2013 Northampton
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25 – 30 Mar 2013 Llandudno
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2 – 6 Apr 2013 Liverpool
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8 – 13 Apr 2013 Aylesbury
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15 – 20 Apr 2013 Brighton
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22 – 27 Apr 2013 Norwich
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29 Apr – 4 May 2013 Bristol
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6 – 11 May 2013 York
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13 – 18 May 2013 Nottingham
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20 May – 25 May 2013 Truro
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27 May – 1 Jun 2013 Wolverhampton
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3 – 8 June 2013 Swansea
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17 – 22 Jun 2013 Derry
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24 – 28 Jun 2013 Dublin
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