Mousetrap – Edinburgh Playhouse

Written by Agatha Christie

Directed by Ian Talbot and Denise Silvey

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Seventy years on the stage is no small feat for any production. Especially one with a secret…

An old case for a new audience – the dependability of Agatha Christie’s The Mousetrap continues with this touring version of the long-running Westend production. A decade ago, The Mousetrap would be found in a venue some may have initially argued was a more intimately fitting home at the King’s Theatre. But this production, now staged on the magnificence of the Playhouse’s large auditorium puts those thoughts to bed – and demonstrates the staggering draw of the show. But fending off the stagnation of time, The Mousetrap continues to be a tried and tested legacy for British theatre. Whether it’s the first or fiftieth time you’ve solved the case – one thing remains the same: keep it to yourself.

Christie’s murderous expertise continues onto the stage, where audiences find a rather charming, if cookie-cutter, middle-class couple in Giles and Mollie Ralston, who embark on the decision to turn their grand old manor home (inherited) into a Guest House. And opening weekend isn’t going precisely to plan: disgruntled guests, peculiar visitors, mid-painted signage, power fluctuations, and a severe blizzard. It couldn’t get any worse. Could it? Well, with a vicious murder occurring only a handful of miles away in London that morning, all house guests suddenly seem a little less friendly.

Resoundingly successful, The Mousetrap remains in this detached bubble with a view of the rest of time – Talbot and Silvy embrace the pastiche of the genre but aren’t insulting or degrading in their direction of its characters who should, by some accounts, feel stale remnants of history; far from it. This cast gives their all to the roles, some holding some elements back to offer a touch more nuance, the rest going full throttle to ensure the audience’s entertainment and arousal of suspicion.

There’s an undoubted appeal in the nostalgic; to escape to a world detached from our own – a small, fire-lit manor house away from the demands of current life. The Mousetrap delivers this in droves, slathered in the usual visual impact. The doctrine of not fixing what isn’t broken is applied here by the same familiar hardwoods and fifties inklings of a Victorian home pervade – complete with hidden passages and the servant’s back corridors. It’s all brought to life with Mike Thacker’s lighting, a vital component of the show’s tension injection.

And feeling this pressure in their bones, turning in the most nuanced performance, Joelle Dyson’s Mollie Ralston continues to be the audience’s sense of grounding dread. Despite the laughs, this is still a murder mystery, there’s a vignette of charm which matches the production perfectly, which is a little more distinct from the rest of the cast.

Matching his on-stage wife with a modicum of decorum, long-time Mischief Theatre’s The Play That Goes Wrong alumni Laurence Pears channels the ability to match haughty pomposity with barely under-the-surface bouts of John Cleese-esque outbursts. Whilst their role as Alan Ayckbourn may not initially seem the most interesting, the comedy and physicality Pear’s presence brings matches the pacing and ramped level of campness perfectly. Comparatively, Joseph Reed takes to the role of Detective Sgt. Trotter (a lovely coincidence with his Once Fools and Horses co-star Strong) with a surprising amount of energy – notoriously for being played by a more reserved performer. It’s a delightful infusion of energy and makes for engaging interactions with Pears or fellow suspect Essie Barrow’s Miss Casewell.

Bringing crowd-pleasing post-war emancipation, Barrow’s Miss Casewell has a spiffy attitude and rocks the shoulder pads to boast an entertaining presence. They’re an ideal counterbalance to the severity of Gwen Strong’s stuffy and self-righteous Mrs Boyle, the pair sharing a couple of scenes, their back-and-forth trades of barbs a delightful moment of taking Boyle down a few notches.

There’s a similar, though uniquely different delivery from Elliot Clay’s Christopher Wren, who is having the absolute time of their life in ramping up their characterisation up to eleven. The pair’s place within the narrative serves both as a reminder of the then and the steadily warming acceptance of these characters whilst maintaining their appeal and performance. Equally as invested in their performance is Eastenders’ Mark Fowler – as the dogmatically booming Major Metcalf.  

And if the production wasn’t already as subtle as a brick, the sheer volumes of fun and glee Kieran Brown carries as improbable Mr Paravicini, a stranger who appears to have banked his Rolls Royce in the snow and carries themselves as a man younger than they look. Turning what was a severely problematic role, the foreigner, into an undoubted highlight of the evening – going so far into the trip, that it loops around into something even more cartoonishly dastardly.

The longevity of theatre’s most beloved murder mystery isn’t a secret, The Mousetrap boasts numerous draws to the moniker of the longest-running production for a reason: it’s comfortably joyful. Despite the sinister subject matter, Christie’s story of secrets and vengeance continues onward as ingrained a piece of our culture as any Shakespeare or Wilde. Without question, it has follies and glaring narrative holes, but Talbot and Silvey’s, The Mousetrap relishes the pastiche of the medium, continuing to draw in audiences well into its next big birthday. See it. Solve it. Zip it.

Theatre’s Beloved Secret

The Mousetrap runs at The Edinburgh Playhouse until April 29th. Tuesday – Saturday at 19.30pm, Wednesday and Saturday matinees at 14.30pm.
Runs for two hours and twenty minutes, with one interval. Tickets begin from £13.00 and may be obtained here. Suitable for Ages 7+


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