The Mousetrap ★★★1/2

Written by Agatha Christie. Theatre Royal, Sydney October 8-30, 2022 then touring to Brisbane, Adelaide and Melbourne.

It’s serendipitous timing that Agatha Christie’s The Mousetrap has opened in Sydney while the brilliant film, See How They Run, is still in cinemas. Together they’re perfect companion pieces, and seeing The Mousetrap before the film will definitely elevate your enjoyment of both!

The beauty of The Mousetrap is that at 70 years of age it has no intention of changing to match the modern mood. This is a classic manor-house murder mystery, with secret passageways, a conveniently severe snow storm, a motley collection of very eccentically British characters and some passing continental racism. Yes we’ve seen this a thousand times by now on any number of British comfort-crime TV shows (Midsomer Murders, Grantchester etc). But here we’re going back to the source, and the plot still proves that Christie was ahead of her time with her ability to weave character, class and gritty realities into a coherent and thrilling story. 

I saw The Mousetrap more than a decade ago, and had completely forgotten the who-did-it at the centre of the who-dunnit. So it was fun to be able to play along afresh. I remembered the bare essentials of the plot but, as I think will happen to many people in the audience, I had to try to seperate what I knew of the play and all of the variations used by the numerous imitators that came after. Was I remembering The Mousetrap, or a scene from An Inspector Calls? Or The Real Inspector Hound etc? 

Knowing laughter rippled across the audience as plot points were delivered. The radio tells us the police are after a murder suspect wearing a dark overcoat, white scarf and felt hat… as not one but multiple people arrive at Monkswell Manor wearing versions of the same thing. Characters that would have once been “coded” gay are more obvious to modern eyes. If only the broad, caricaturish portrayal of Mr Paravicini had as much depth – but then again, that is rather the point. 

Director Robyn Nevin has clearly put the work in with the cast to step beyond the obvious, shallow portrayals and give each character a real heart and motivation. No one is winking at the audience (with the exception of Paravicini), they’re taking these characters seriously and that gives the story the weight it needs and instantly dispels any am-dram fears.

But I guess the central question is, does this murder-mystery hold up after 70 years? Yes. The plot is twisty enough to keep you guessing and the story is full of charming moments, red herrings and some sly commentary on the English to keep everyone amused. Some of the story may seem overly familiar but that’s because they work so well they became cliche in the years after. 

Agatha Christie popularised the genre of “comfort-crime” with her stories and The Mousetrap is the perfect example of that. It’s a distraction, but a well made and entertaining one at that, and this touring production does the show credit by giving audiences exactly what they want. If you’re a theatre-fan then go to see a classic and have fun. If you’re after an easy night at the theatre, then this will work perfectly. 

Then do yourself a favour and catch See How They Run at the cinema before it closes…







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