REVIEW: Keeping the secret of The Mousetrap

Luke Jenkins as Sgt Trotter and Jonathan Sidgwick as Mr Paravicini in The Mousetrap
Luke Jenkins as Sgt Trotter and Jonathan Sidgwick as Mr Paravicini in The Mousetrap

The butler did it. No he didn’t, there isn’t a butler in The Mousetrap.

No spoilers here, I shall certainly join the many hundreds of thousands who have seen this play over its astonishing 63 years of performances and kept the secret of who the killer is… Or maybe it’s all of them, or none of them, or maybe there was no murder after all. My lips are sealed.

The Mousetrap, which started out as a half hour radio drama called Three Blind Mice, opened to theatre audiences in 1952 with the author believing it would run for eight months. Well closing night still seems a long way off judging by the size of the audience in Northampton on Monday night.

It is a classic Christie murder mystery. There is an old country house, a collection of suspects drawing our suspicion and a police officer who gathers everyone together for interrogation.

A mysterious and unpleasant back story is at the root of the crime, but the question is how, if at all, are these characters connected to the horrible events of years before?

It is a piece of its time where a chap who likes cooking, a confident woman in trousers and a man with a heavy foreign accent are all clearly suspicious enough before we’ve heard any more about them. I don’t want to say too much for fear of betraying the secret, but I was left thinking at the end, ‘well why would that person and that other person have ended up there at the same time, by sheer chance?’

The drama has stuck to its classic roots in the late Forties with the accents and manners of the cast fitting the period exactly. I especially enjoyed Jonathan Sidgwick who played the louche and clearly disreputable Mr Paravicini.

The production moved at an enjoyable pace as we got to know the characters and assessed them for guilt. If anything I would say the journey was more satisfying than the destination as with many Christie crime stories the fun is in not knowing. Once the revelation has come, and you know it was him/her/them and they did it for that reason, it’s oddly anti-climactic.

I’m still a bit baffled as to why this play has been quite so enduring, but this is an enjoyable production of a classic whodunit. As The author herself said: “It is the sort of play you can take anyone to.”

...As long as they can keep a secret.

The Mousetrap is on tour and it is at Royal and Derngate in Northampton until Saturday, September 12.