As the music struck up you knew, just knew, this was a thriller. The suspense and tension was already there, hanging in the air. There was a scream! A woman had been murdered and when the curtain rose it was the job of the audience to work out whodunit, writes Michael Holland.
The Mousetrap is one of Agatha Christie’s most famous murder mysteries; most definitely the one that has broken the most records as it nears its 68th year in the West End. This touring production began with a news broadcast telling of the police looking for someone wearing a scarf, overcoat and hat. Cue every visitor to Monkswell Manor Guest House wearing similar clothing, so no clues there then.
Gwyneth Strong, famous for her Cassandra character in Only Fools And Horses, is Mrs Boyle, a woman who complains non-stop and was everyone in the audience’s favourite for first victim rather than the murderer. The others were a motley bunch of people, all with a secret or two.
A snowstorm meant the guests were trapped in with no way out, although Sergeant Trotter did arrive on skis to catch the killer. Alas, even with his arrival it wasn’t long before one of the guests meets a grisly demise.
Sixty-seven years on from its 1952 opening The Mousetrap now seems like a spoof of those times. I expected French & Saunders to appear from behind the curtains, or Fry & Laurie to walk on talking of ‘a dreadful business all this murder malarkey, old chap, what!’ Coincidence is stretched way beyond the realms of reality in this and I couldn’t help thinking how a 1950s’ audience would not be laughing as we were all laughing.
Nevertheless, The Mousetrap has been on my ‘To do’ for many a year, so I was fully prepared to play along with this live version of Cluedo. As clues and red herrings were dripfed to us and scattered about the guest house, my suspicions changed from him to her, from her to him, and then back again.
With a great set and performances straight out of the postwar playbook, The Mousetrap is something every English person should see(along with all the tourists who travel from all corners of the world to see this phenomenon).
And yes, come the denouement I was found to be wrong and so was my theatre partner, although she swears she knew who it was all along. But the first rule of The Mousetrap is never to reveal who the killer is. The second rule of The Mousetrap is that you will be strangled in your sleep if you break the first rule. You have been warned.
The Mousetrap is on at Churchill Theatre, High Street, Bromley, BR1 1HA until March 16th. Phone: 0203 285 6000
Photos: Johan Persson