The Mousetrap

Apr 27 2023 | By More

★★★☆☆   Dependably twisting

Playhouse: Tue 25 – Sat 29 April 2023
Review by Thom Dibdin

It’s a case of new decade – same old dependability for this touring version of the long-running West End production of The Mousetrap, which has a slightly larger feel to it than when it last celebrated a decade in town.

When it hit 60, The Mousetrap found its home in the relative intimacy of the King’s. At 70, it has the tricky task of playing to the 3,000 seat Playhouse this week (and the Glasgow King’s next). It is to the immense credit of everyone involved that it still works as a piece of live theatre, with all the necessary connection between stage and audience.

Lawrence Pears as Giles Ralston. The Mousetrap 70th Anniversary Tour. Pic: Matt Crockett

That it works so well is down to a bright and committed cast who are directed with a larger-than-life feel by Ian Talbot and Denise Silvey. Not to forget the technical teams of both the theatre and the touring company, who have hit a sweet spot of clarity which the big touring musicals should be able to get round with volume, but who often fail.

While the cast famously ask its audience to keep the news of whodunnit close to their hearts after the curtain, there is no secret to Agatha Christie’s basic story, set near London in the 1950s.

Young couple Mollie and Giles Ralston have decided to turn the big old house she inherited from her aunt into the Monkswell Guest House. It’s their opening weekend and it’s not the Ralstons’ fault that the snow has set in with a vengeance. Or that a murder has taken place earlier that afternoon in London.

evocatively lit

Following the mantra that if it’s not broke, there’s no need to fix it, The Mousetrap’s familiar chunky set is present and correct – all brown wood and Fifties notions of a Victorian not-quite stately home. It’s evocatively lit by Mike Thacker, adding greatly to the necessary tensions along the way.

Joelle Dyson as Mollie Ralston. The Mousetrap 70th Anniversary Tour. Pic: Matt Crockett

If Talbot and Silvey have sparkled up the direction several notches, they have left all the post-war English sensibilities and reactionary prejudices out in the open, together with the Home Counties accents, the post-war sense of turmoil and the Sunday Papers-level sub-plot about long forgotten local misdemeanours.

It’s the pace and campness quotient that they have dabbled with. Giving their cast full reign to take Christie’s largely two-dimensional characters and inject them with extra brio and buzz.

resolute charm

Only Joelle Dyson as Mollie Ralston remains fully grounded. Dyson gives the necessary stability and resolute charm of a young woman, determined to make a go of her dream of running a guest house, which is necessary to ensure that all the ensuing mayhem has its element of jeopardy.

The dependable Laurence Pears, an Alan Ayckbourn regular best known for his appearance in several Mischief Theatre’s Goes Wrong shows, as her husband Giles brings a touch of the Basil Fawlty to the table. Even on this first day of their enterprise, Giles is moaning about the guests and not seeing things for what they are.

Todd Carty as Major Metcalf. The Mousetrap 70th Anniversary Tour. Pic: Matt Crockett

The four expected guests all have a decent level of suspicion to them. Elliot Clay goes well over the top as the improbably named young architect Christopher Wren, turning the character’s campness up several notches. Essie Barrow’s Miss Casewell is quite the driven young woman, riding the post-war boom of female emancipation.

The Only Fools and Horses regular Gwyneth Strong, as the insufferably stuffy Mrs Boyle, with Todd Carty – Grange Hill‘s Tucker and East Enders Mark Fowler – as the pontificating Major Metcalf, both bring their breadth of experience to bear; ensuring their characters are on the right side of believable, but still quite wonderfully larger than life.

huge fun

Yet more fun is to be had from Kieran Brown as the improbable Mr Paravicini, the stranger stuck in the snow who “moves like a much younger man”. Brown has huge fun with the role, while ensuring that the standard dastardly foreigner trope of such affairs never falls into the trap of racist caricature, whatever the script might indicate.

Even Joseph Reed as the cop on skis, Detective Sgt. Trotter, who arrives through the snowstorm to protect the assembled company, has none of the woodenness often associated with such a role.

Gwyneth Strong as Mrs. Boyle. The Mousetrap 70th Anniversary Tour. Pic: Matt Crockett.

There is no question of Christie’s ability with the real clues, the miss-directions and the red herrings. All are at her complete command and she wields them with both humour and a lightness of touch. Which makes the ultimate revelations all the more entertaining.

Of course, looking back, there are more holes than a Swiss Cheese in the whole fandango. And while the ending is entertaining, there are too many unresolved issues to truly satisfy. But that is far from the point.

This is theatre which exists solely for its entertainment value, a potential museum piece of fifties memorabilia which directors Talbot and Silvey ensure still delivers, and does so with some panache, to a 21st century audience.

Running time: Two hours and 25 minutes.
Playhouse, 18 – 22 Greenside Place, EH1 3AA.
Tue 25 – Sat 29 April 2023
Evening Tue – Sat: 7.30pm; Matinee Wed, Sat: 2.30pm.
Tickets and details: Book here.

Glasgow King’s Theatre, 297 Bath St, Glasgow G2 4JN
Mon 1 – Sat 6 May 2023
Evening Mon – Sat: 7.30pm; Matinee Wed, Sat: 2.30pm.
Tickets and details: Book here.

Kieran Brown as Mr Paravicini . The Mousetrap 70th Anniversary Tour. Pic: Matt Crockett


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