In Agatha Christie’s The Mousetrap, everyone’s a suspect. Except the audience: we’re all detectives here.
Open case file for “The Mousetrap”: the crime scene is St. Martin’s Theatre in London and the murder weapon is none other than the pen of Agatha Christie, queen of suspense and everyone’s favourite author when they were thirteen. It is the West End’s longest running play, and will enter its 66th year in 2018.
However, its author did not see this never ending coming. Mick Jagger said in an interview in 1964 that he thinks the Rolling Stones are “set up for another year”. Twelve years earlier, Agatha Christie replied to Peter Saunders, The Mousetrap’s first producer, in the same manner after he told her he gives the play fourteen months: “It won’t run that long. Eight months perhaps. Yes, I think eight months.”
The first thing you notice in the foyer is a rather peculiar wooden display which announces the number of the performance: 26806. At a first glance, you’d think it’s a way of keeping score. Could it be a warning as well? It is a murder mystery after all. The second discovery is that, whilst The Mousetrap may be the longest running play, it’s not the one with the greatest audience. Not that I’m complaining. This is after all the reason why our tickets got upgraded from the upper circle to the stalls.
The premise of the play is as follows: your six usual suspects are trapped in a country guest house by a blizzard. Of course there’s bound to be a murder and of course everyone’s hiding something and nothing is what it seems. The guesthouse is so carefully arranged that it becomes deceiving: it looks less like a trap, and more like a 50s diorama.
However, this is much more than a game of Cluedo. Admittedly, the play does feel a bit cliché at times, but it nevertheless manages to surprise and amuse. What keeps you at the edge of your seat is not always the plot, but the quirky characters and scintillating dialogue. That and the fact that it’s all happening right under your nose. “Murder! I like Murder!” shouts one of the characters. And you can’t help but nod cheerfully at the joke. Or is it a joke?
At nearly 66, The Mousetrap can say “I’m not a regular grandma. I’m a cool grandma.”. Like with all cool grandmas, there’s a tacit pre-agreement that, as long as you tolerate some cheek squeezing, you’ll get some juicy stories and a few clever one-liners in return. There is no suspicion about that.
The Mousetrap is currently running at St. Martin’s Theatre in the West End Mondays to Saturdays, with matinee performances Tuesdays and Saturdays. It doesn’t seem likely to stop soon.
Photo credits: Irina Anghel