Our verdict on The Mousetrap at the Royal & Derngate, Northampton

The cast of The Mousetrap. Picture: Joe Twigg Photography
The cast of The Mousetrap. Picture: Joe Twigg Photography

Lily Canter reviews Agatha Christie's classic whodunit

Watching Britain's longest continuing play The Mousetrap is rather like stepping into a Cluedo board game, with the audience constantly trying to guess whodunit.

There are the familiar mansion rooms; library, drawing room, kitchen and a cast of melodramatic characters, one who conceals a vengeful motive and a deadly, murderous weapon.

Indeed the deliberate playfulness of Agatha Christie's script, first performed in October 1952, may well account for its record-breaking popularity and longevity.

Back again at Royal & Derngate, the box office smash continues its seemingly unstoppable run.

Set in the recently converted guesthouse Monkswell Manor, the action unfolds in the central living room, as heavy snow cuts the house off from the outside world.

In this grand but claustrophobic space, eight characters are gradually introduced, all seemingly mysterious, with something to hide.

In classic Christie style, the tension gradual mounts and red herrings are thrown left, right and centre, until it appears everyone is guilty.

Yet despite the dark plotline, there is much levity in the stage play from a running prop joke to acerbic one liners, as the guests bicker and clash.

Particular standout performances come from David Alcock, who ramps up the ham as Mr Paravicini, a deliciously bizarre and Dracula-like stranger, and Lewis Chandler, as the camp, Christopher Wren whose playful exterior masks his inner turmoil.

The play, which has featured more than 400 actors in over 65 years, still remains a solid crowd-pleaser, due to its mixture of drama, farce and mystery.

If a traditional murder mystery without political subtext if what you are looking for, then you really cannot go wrong with this light but wickedly entertaining yarn.

* The Mousetrap is at Royal & Derngate until Saturday February 9. Visit royalandderngate.co.uk to book.