The world’s longest-running play is showing no signs of slowing down. After sell-out seasons in Sydney, Brisbane and Adelaide, Agatha Christie’s The Mousetrap has finally come to Melbourne. This suspenseful murder mystery has captivated audiences since it first opened in 1952. And now, it’s arrived in Melbourne as part of its platinum jubilee tour. Directed by Robyn Nevin and produced by John Frost for Crossroads Live, you’re invited to be a part of theatre history. Can you solve the mystery?
Agatha Christie’s The Mousetrap
Agatha Christie first wrote the story as a 30-minute radio play as a birthday present for Queen Mary. This play, Three Blind Mice, was broadcast in 1947. She later adapted the work into a short story, and then rewrote it for the stage as The Mousetrap. It debuted at the Theatre Royal, Nottingham on October 6, 1952, and opened at the Ambassadors Theatre in London’s West End a month later. Christie didn’t expect the play to last for more than a few months. However, it carried on at the Ambassadors until March 1974, before moving to the larger St Martin’s Theatre next door. It continues to run to this day, with over 28,500 performances under its belt. It’s the longest-running West End show, and the longest running play in the world.
The play is set at Monkswell Manor in winter 1952. After a woman is murdered in London, a blizzard causes the guests and owners of the manor to become stranded. A police detective arrives on skis during the snowstorm, announcing that the murderer is at large and could be making his way to the hotel. However, as the story progresses, it becomes clear that the killer is already among them. Could it be one of the newlyweds who run the house? Or one of the guests – a peculiar architect, a retired Army major, a mysterious spinster, a jurist who makes life miserable, or the strange man who claims his car was overturned in a snow drift? Tensions escalate, leading to a shocking twist ending. It has become tradition after the show for theatregoers to keep the secret.
The Melbourne show
It truly feels like time flies when you’re watching The Mousetrap. With a two hour runtime, not including the 20 minute intermission, the incredible writing weaves a tight narrative, filled with plenty of clues and surprises. You learn just enough about each character to keep you engaged and guessing. The intermission serves as a welcome break for you to turn to your friends and whisper theories in hushed and excited tones.
The play is set in just one room, the Great Hall of Monkswell Manor, and yet the actors are filled with such intrigue and stage presence that there is no room for boredom. Other elements, such as the lighting and the music from the radio (or wireless), masterfully transform the scene from a cosy room on a winter’s day to the scene of a crime.
There’s plenty of comedic beats throughout the show to break up the suspense. Laurence Boxhall, in the role of architect Christopher Wren, was a crowd favourite, with plenty of funny and eccentric moments that will leave you delighted. Gerry Connolly, as the unexpected Mr Paravicini, was also a hilarious sight to see.
The owners of Monkswell Manor, played by international theatre star Anna O’Byrne and Helpmann Award winner Alex Rathgeber, made for a really sweet duo. O’Byrne’s gentle and kind presence paired well against Rathgeber’s confident manner.
Tom Conroy as Detective Sergeant Trotter was fascinating to watch, commanding everyone’s attention as he navigated his way around the suspects.
Geraldine Turner as Mrs Boyle was wonderfully grumpy, Adam Murphy as Major Metcalf had a friendly and charming presence, and Charlotte Friels as Miss Casewell was perfectly aloof.
All in all, a night at The Mousetrap is fun for everyone.