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The Mousetrap UK Tour at Theatre Royal Brighton

Twenty One years ago, when Roy Marsden was artistic director, the Palace Theatre Westcliff staged all of Agatha Christie’s plays, including the radio plays, short plays and adaptations by other writers. I saw them all! This festival also included the first performance of The Mousetrap outside London’s West End. Now, to celebrate the 70th anniversary of the play’s premiere at The Ambassadors Theatre on 25th November 1952, the play is currently on an extensive UK tour.

Joseph Reed as Detective Sgt. Trotter. Photo by Matt Crockett.
Joseph Reed as Detective Sgt. Trotter. Photo by Matt Crockett.

Variously described as a “whodunnit”, “thriller” and “murder mystery”, it is in fact all of these as well as being an example of the sort of popular play that was current not only in the West End but also the staple of weekly repertory companies at the time. The Mousetrap is charmingly ‘dated’, and the almost ‘full house’ on a Monday night at Brighton’s Theatre Royal not only knew that before they arrived, they also revelled in the absurdities of the plot as witnessed by the vociferous reception at Curtain Call. Anyone interested in the history of post-WW2 British theatre needs to see this play – it is also a lot of fun!

Mollie Ralston (Joelle Dyson) and her husband Giles (Laurence Pears) have just opened a guest house – the programme does not tell us where or when – but it seems to be in a deserted part of England with one road leading to it which quickly, in Act One, gets blocked by snow so that the rather strange assortment of guests get trapped with each other! There is supposed architect Christopher Wren (an animated performance by Elliot Clay), abrupt Mrs Boyle (a suitably larger-than-life portrayal by Gwyneth Strong), a Major Metcalf (nicely stereotyped by Todd Carty), youthful, slim Miss Casewell (Essie Barrow), Mr Paravicini (Kieran Brown sporting an unbelievable accent and wig – very witty!) and Detective Sergeant Trotter (Joseph Reed) who arrives on skis, which later disappear!.

It is Trotter who gives the play energy as he drives the action whenever he is onstage, and directors Ian Talbot and Denise Silvey ensure that it flows at great speed for much of the time, only allowing it to relax in the various duologues in the final act. This is especially necessary as there is a great deal of exposition in the first half hour, necessary for audiences in the 1950s (just think of Priestley’s An Inspector Calls) before television made audiences less needy!

My only slight caveat is that some actors are clearly aided by radio mikes which means that at times they are, for example, stage left, whereas their voice appears from the loudspeaker down right!

The production is greatly aided by the superb ‘mansion’ set, panelled walls and all: it is a shame that again the programme lets the production down by not crediting the imaginative designer! In many ways, it is typical of its genre in that there are multiple entrances as well as a sofa positioned centre stage facing front, when logically it would be stage right in front of the fireplace! In fact, everything is designed for the mythical “fourth wall” – we the audience – and naturalism is thrown out of the window.

This is one of the best plays of its genre, which is why it has been running in London continuously for 70 years; yes it is gloriously “dated” but it is also gloriously “British” and one leaves the theatre feeling that one has been able to totally suspend belief with a ‘good night out’. The audience at Brighton cheered it to the rafters – deservedly so.

4 stars

Review by John Groves

Agatha Christie’s The Mousetrap is the world’s longest-running play. This thrilling West End production is THE genre-defining murder mystery from the best-selling novelist of all time… case closed! For almost 70 years, The Mousetrap has kept millions of people from every corner of the globe on the edge of their seats.

COULD YOU BE NEXT?

Listings
Running Time: approximately 2hr 20mins

Theatre Royal Brighton
Mon 24 Oct – Sat 29 Oct 2022

The Alexandra, Birmingham
Mon 31 Oct – Sat 5 Nov 2022

Liverpool Empire
Mon 7 Nov – Sat 12 Nov 2022

New Theatre Oxford
Mon 14 Nov – Sat 19 Nov 2022

Opera House Manchester
Mon 28 Nov – Sat 3 Dec 2022

Grand Opera House York
Mon 6 Mar – Sat 11 Mar 2023

Regent Theatre, Stoke-on-Trent
Mon 3 Apr – Sat 8 Apr 2023

New Victoria Theatre, Woking
Mon 10 Apr – Sat 15 Apr 2023

Edinburgh Playhouse
Tue 25 Apr – Sat 29 Apr 2023

King’s Theatre, Glasgow
Mon 1 May – Sat 6 May 2023

Milton Keynes Theatre
Mon 22 May – Sat 27 May 2023

Bristol Hippodrome Theatre
Mon 24 Jul – Sat 29 Jul 2023

Princess Theatre, Torquay
Mon 11 Sep – Sat 16 Sep 2023

Sunderland Empire
Tue 30 Jan – Sat 3 Feb 2024

Book Tickets for The Mousetrap
St. Martin’s Theatre, London

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Author

  • John Groves

    John Groves studied singing with Robert Easton and conducting with Clive Timms. He was lucky enough to act in the British premiere of a Strindberg play at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe more years ago than he cares to remember, as well as singing at the Royal Opera House - once! He taught drama and music at several schools, as well as examining the practical aspects of GCSE and A level drama for many years. For twenty five years he has conducted a brass band as well as living on one of the highest points of East Sussex surrounded by woodland, deer, foxes and badgers, with kites and buzzards flying overhead.

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1 thought on “The Mousetrap UK Tour at Theatre Royal Brighton”

  1. An excellent review. Mr.Groves always brings his great knowledge to each of his reviews and has such a clear and concise style.

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