The Mousetrap at Her Majesty’s Theatre in Adelaide
Review by Carla Caruso
This thrilling West End production is THE genre-defining murder-mystery from the bestselling novelist of all time … case closed!
Imagine if you’d written a story and it was still being performed onstage 70 years later. And continued to have people on the edge of their seats, trying to guess ‘whodunit’.
That’s the case for Agatha Christie’s The Mousetrap, currently celebrating its platinum anniversary.
A new Australian production of the masterpiece – led by Adelaide-born producer John Frost from Crossroads Live – is on at Her Majesty’s Theatre until 15 January 2023.
As Frost says:
For many years, the production was not to be licensed to any Australian producers. The owners felt that there were many Australians that continued to travel to see The Mousetrap in London’s West End and it could dilute ticket sales there should a production be staged here.”
But when Frost was approached last year to see if he was interested in mounting an Aussie production for the anniversary, he “jumped at the opportunity”.
Our production reaches back into the era in which it was written, when the British people were still recovering from the terrible and destructive years of war.
They needed respite from their daily troubles and The Mousetrap, which opened in 1952, provided just that … [Currently] the devastating pandemic has affected us all in some way, and much as it did back in 1952, The Mousetrap today, provides a diversion, a respite from the challenges we have faced.”
The plot? As news spreads of a murder in London, a group of seven strangers find themselves snowed in at a remote countryside guesthouse. When a police sergeant arrives, the guests discover – to their horror – that a killer is in their midst. Which one is the murderer? And who will be their next victim…?
Watching the production is like seeing an Alfred Hitchcock movie – or, indeed, an Agatha Christie one – play out right before your eyes.
The whole show takes place in one sitting room – something that didn’t even hit me until midway as I was so engrossed in guessing whodunit.
Even though Adelaide’s weather has been sweltering of late, I enjoyed soaking up the play’s cosy setting, complete with a faux blizzard outside a window and an old-fashioned fireplace and armchairs.
One by one, you’re introduced to the Cluedo-like characters, ranging from the immature, unkempt Christopher Wren, who likes nursery rhymes as they’re “so tragic and macabre”, to the slimy, mysterious Mr Paravicini and the straight-shooting Detective Sergeant Trotter, who arrives on skis.
My plus-one thought the Aussie cast were British, their accents are so good!
There are laughs along the way and gasps from the audience as truths are revealed, and dun-dun-dun lines by characters add to the intrigue – like, “When the snow melts, lots of things might have happened.”
On the show’s enduring appeal, Christie herself once said:
It is the sort of play you can take anyone to. It’s not really frightening. It’s not really horrible. It’s not really a farce, but it has a little bit of all these things and perhaps that satisfies a lot of different people.”
While the production’s pitched at those aged eight and up, I think it would really depend on the maturity of the eight-year-old in question.
Some of the dialogue and Enid Blyton-style terms – think ‘beastly’, ‘monstrous’ and ‘buffoon’ – might go over a child’s head. A murder is also enacted onstage. While the lights are out during the scene, you do hear the scuffle.
The production runs for two hours and twenty minutes, with an interval. So, it would also depend on whether your child is okay to sit for that long.
This aside, I found it interesting that some of the topics touched on during the play – from mental health to homosexuality and childhood neglect – still resonate today.
And throughout, it’s fun mentally flipping back and forth between who you think the culprit is.
At the end of the play, the audience is asked to “keep the secret of who’s done it locked in [their] heart”. And this will hopefully ensure that The Mousetrap can survive for another 70 years!
Some fun facts about Agatha Christie from the program:
- Christie wrote her first mystery novel when she was 26, and it was published four years later.
- There followed a prolific writing career spanning five decades, with over 80 novels and short story collections published, including Murder on the Orient Express and Death on the Nile, and 19 plays.
- With more than two billion books published, Christie is outsold only by the Bible and Shakespeare.
- Christie once said: “I planned an exciting future as a famous singer or pianist. It never occurred to me to be a writer as I was an atrocious speller.”
- It was her seventh novel, The Murder of Roger Ackroyd (1926), which brought her fame. The first of her books to be dramatised, under the title, Alibi, the play enjoyed a successful London run.
- In the same year, a curious episode occurred, which caused much covert speculation in her lifetime, and since her death, has been more overtly discussed. One night in December, she drove away from her Surrey home and vanished. Following a massive nationwide search, she was found 10 days later, staying under a false name in a hotel in Harrogate and apparently suffering from amnesia. Throughout her life, she refused to discuss those lost days.
- She preferred her protagonist of Miss Marple to Hercule Poirot, thinking him too artificial a character.
- Christie also wrote, for her own pleasure, a series of straight novels under the strictly guarded pseudonym of Mary Westmacott, but her detective stories continued to be bestsellers.
- She never claimed to write great literature but professed merely to “entertain”.
- She married twice and had one child.
- On The Mousetrap, back in 1952, Christie reckoned that the new play would last eight months. The Mousetrap is the longest running play in the world.
Performing from Thursday 5 – Sunday 15 January 2023 at Her Majesty’s Theatre
For more information and all enquiries, please visit the Adelaide Festival Centre website.
What: The Mousetrap – Review
When: 5-15 January 2023
Where: Her Majesty’s Theatre | 58 Grote Street, Adelaide
Who: Ages 8 and up
All photos supplied by Crossroads Live.
At Play & Go Adelaide we make every effort to provide accurate information to the best of our knowledge at the time of publication. We recommend confirming times, dates and details directly before making any plans as details may be subject to change.
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