Have you yet to have had the enormous pleasure of seeing the world’s longest running play The Mousetrap? Then you can fill that gap in your theatre-going CV by joining the packed audiences who are enjoying the famous whodunnit at Buxton Opera House this week.
I was one of those fortunate to be present as a talented cast allowed us to travel back in time to the 1950s and become engrossed in a typical piece from the pen of crime writer Agatha Christie with all of its twists and turns and more red herrings than to be found in the hold of a Fleetwood trawler.
Mollie Ralston (Rachel Dawson) and her husband of a year Giles (Michael Lyle) have inherited a country pile and have taken the daring opportunity to open it as a bijou hotel.
They are eagerly awaiting the arrival of their first cohort of guests and a more motley crew could not have been assembled if the visitors had been hand-picked. The irascible Mrs Boyle (Catherine Shipton – Duffy from Casualty) is joined by the wacky wannabe architect Christopher Wren (Shaun McCourt), retired Army Major Metcalf (Todd Carty – Mark Fowler in Eastenders) and the aloof Miss Casewell (Leigh Lothian). As the wintry weather closes in, they are joined by Mr Paravicini (Steven Elliott) – an enigmatic man of continental origin.
Any hopes of a quiet and relaxing week away are destroyed by the knowledge that a murderer is on the loose and, with all the residents of Monkswell House matching the killer’s description, the arrival of Detective Sergeant Trotter (Garyn Williams) throws the cat among the pigeons.
Trotter’s revelation that the country house has connections to the killer and that the villain has – just as in the nursery rhyme Three Blind Mice – the intention of bumping off a further two victims currently at the hotel, the audience is drawn into the intrigue.
One cast member is killed by the end of Act One but can the amateur sleuths in the audience work their way through the clues to identify the villain of the piece before another deadly deed is done?
The drama is a delightful throwback to a visit to the theatre of yesteryear. The static set is rarely seen on the modern stage and the delivery of the lines harks back to another era. However, this mattered little to the audience as they were wrapped up in the play’s progress. This charming period play was delivered with an enthusiasm and a skill set from the cast that enveloped the onlookers and drew them into the action.
The gratification for The Mousetrap’s producers is that the record-breaking play has plenty of legs in it yet. There was a satisfying mix of young and old in the audience and the younger members were as keen to show their appreciation at the final curtain as anyone in the house.
This was not my first visit to The Mousetrap and it may well not be my last as on this evidence Agatha Christie’s epic has every chance to celebrate its centenary.
This is a play that should be seen by every person who enjoys a night at the theatre. Just keep your lips sealed and refuse to divulge any of the secrets so that future generations can experience the full intrigue as the Mistress of crime fiction’s magical mystery meddles with their minds.