Reviewed by Jodie Crawford
Opening Night verdict ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
It is incredible to think that this play has been performed by so many actors in its 70 year run. 70 years of different generations of theatre goers sitting in auditoriums gripped by this timeless murder mystery. Laughing at the same jokes, and all asking themselves over and over “who dunit?”.
As the curtain rises for Act one, we encounter the splendid view of Mr and Mrs Ralston’s drawing room, which has been converted into Monkswell Manor guest house in order to for them to be able to afford to keep this family home. Firstly, Mrs Ralston (Joelle Dyson) enters wearing a dark overcoat, a felt hat and a light scarf and hurriedly hides something in a bureau, before quickly leaving the room. Next to enter is Mr Ralston (Laurence Pears) wearing a dark overcoat, a felt hat and a light scarf and he too hurriedly hides something before disappearing off stage. I’m fact all of the guests who arrive, arrive wearing the same garments, something that becomes extremely significant as the plot unfolds.
The Ralstons are keen to welcome their first ever guests, but with no staff to help them they appear slightly out of their depth, with the cooking, cleaning and entertaining to take care of. As they ready themselves for their opening night, we learn from the news report on the wireless of a brutal murder that has taken place in London earlier that day.
Before long the guests begin to arrive; firstly, is the nit-picking Mrs Boyle, played by Gwyneth Strong. From the moment she arrives she is less than impressed with the guest house and her fellow guests, especially the second guest to arrive: the animated and hilarious Christopher Wren, played by Elliot Clay. His arrival is followed by the kind-hearted, and ever helpful Major Metcalf (Nicholas Maude) and finally the last scheduled guest – the unconventional Miss Casewell.
As all the guests settle into their rooms and get to know each other a loud knock at the door catches them unawares. There are no other guests due to arrive….Enter Mr Paravicini (John Altman) who claims to have rolled his flash car further down the lane and is in need of a place to stay. Something doesn’t seem right about this chancer, but there is no option but to welcome him in from the cold.
The guests are barely settled when a telephone call from the police puts everyone on edge. A detective is to descend on the guest house with some important news.
Young and dashing Detective Sergeant Trotter, arrives on skis to inform all at Monkswell house that they are infact now murder suspects, and at least one of them could be the next murder victim. With everyone now cut off from civilisation, thanks to a timely blizzard and the unfortunate cutting of the telephone wire, it’s is up to the detective to solve the crime and keep everyone safe. But who could possibly be a violent killer and what is their motive?
I was not expecting this play to be as witty and funny as it is. The pace is mostly quick, the set really helps with the pacing of the narrative, as the cast enter and leave through varying doors and corridors.
The cast are absolutely superb, each and every one of them. Dyson and Pears make a wonderful duo as husband and wife, they are perfectly charming. Elliot Clay is exceptional – he was the stand out performer for me tonight: he is funny and energetic and portrays Christopher Wren’s vulnerability in a way that we are able to see the depth of his character. Gwyneth Strong is excellent as the cantankerous Mrs Boyle, she really gets the audience against her from the get go! Nichola Maude and Essie Barrow are perfectly cast in their roles and both have a wonderful presence on stage. John Altman plays Paravincini with the right balance of humour and sleaziness. And finally Joseph Reed: he takes command of this play, his dialogue is sharp and controlled. He controls the pace and the narrative with professionalism throughout.
I watched this play continually questioning who was the nurderer and who was a red herring – and low and behold I didn’t have a clue and would never have guessed it! But it’s a secret, so I’m not telling!
I’m generally not a big Agatha Christie fan, but this isn’t a typical Christie play, it’s got something more wonderful to it. The issues raised in this 70 year old play are still relevant today, the characters are easy to identify with, it isn’t just about posh people and a murder plot. It’s about acceptance, truth, the class system, gender stereotypes and dealing with your past before it catches up with you. This play is genuinely funny, and captivating yet tragic at the same time, a great night out.
The Mousetrap is on at Manchester’s Opera House until Saturday 3rd December tickets available here.