No mystery about this play’s success

Graham Seed as Major Metcalf in The Mousetrap''Photo by Helen Maybanks
Graham Seed as Major Metcalf in The Mousetrap''Photo by Helen Maybanks

INTRICATE plots and shuddering suspense are hallmarks of Agatha Christie’s work and there is no better example than The Mousetrap, which has been running in the West End for nearly 60 years, writes John Shawcroft.

It began life at Nottingham’s Theatre Royal, which hosted the world premiere on October 1952.

Now it has returned to the city as part of a 35-theatre diamond anniversary tour and proved such a delight that an extra matinee performance has been added.

You can make a case for it as a classic among thrillers and the cleverest of murder mysteries. But it can be argued that others of the Christie-Durbridge genre are equally compelling.

It doesn’t really matter. Still going strong at St Martin’s Theatre in London, The Mousetrap has nothing to prove. Perhaps a bigger mystery than whodunnit is just why it has endured.

Its creator provided the best explanation: “It is the sort of play you can take anyone to. It’s not really frightening. It’s not really horrible. It’s not really a farce, but it has a little bit of all these things,” she wrote.

It is interesting to compare the touring version with the London production and it must be said that the scenery and the quality of the cast is at least on a par if not superior.

So the Christie gem is in good hands. It captures the spirit of the Monkswell Manor guesthouse in snow-bound Berkshire and the meatier roles (Richard Attenborough and Sheila Sim in the original) are admirably portrayed by Bob Saul and Jemma Walker.

Equally fine performances are given by Steven France, Karl Howman, Bruno Langley, Elizabeth Power, Graham Seed and Clare Wilkie.

And, true to the tradition of The Mousetrap, the audience is asked at curtain call to keep the secret of whodunit locked in their hearts.