The Mousetrap

Last updated on August 23rd, 2023 at 11:33 am

The Mousetrap, Agatha ChristieAmong the many temporarily closures due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) was The Mousetrap. All of you luvvies out there, plus one or two others, will know that ‘The Mousetrap’ is a play.  But it isn’t just any old performance; it is has been playing to audiences in London’s West End for 67 years – until March 2020.  In fact, The Mousetrap is (or was) the longest running show of any kind in the world.  Therefore, irrespective of theatrical merit, maybe it should be on your list of Things To Do and See Before You Can’t.  Perhaps that’s going a bit far – but do put it on your list of Things To Consider in the Future – when you can.

The Mousetrap is a classic ‘whodunnit’ penned by the uncrowned queen of detective stories, Dame Agatha Mary Clarissa Christie (1890-1976).  It opened in the West End in November 1952, with Richard Attenborough and his wife, Sheila Sim, in the cast, and has been there ever since, transferring from its original venue of the Ambassadors Theatre on 25 March 1974 to the larger adjacent St Martin’s Theatre without missing a performance.  The world premier (no one would have recognised it as such a landmark at the time) was actually at the Theatre Royal, Nottingham, on 6 October 1952.  Agatha Christie originally wrote Mousetrap as a short radio play called Three Blind Mice, and did not think the theatrical version would run more for than a few months.

The MousetrapThe action is set “in the present”, but it is clearly sometime in 1950s England.  Recently married Mollie and Giles Ralston are preparing to receive their first paying guests at Monkswell Manor, when news comes on the radio of a ghastly murder in London.  One by one, the Ralstons’ visitors arrive, each one ranging from slightly quirky to the certifiably bonkers.  One of these individuals is called Christopher Wren, so you know that Something Isn’t Quite As It Should Be.  The weather closes in, rain turns to heavy snow, Monkswell Manor gets cut off – and the arrival of a policeman on skis confirms your worst suspicions.  Take that anyway you like.

In Agatha Christie land, murder is certainly unpleasant, and no doubt terribly inconvenient for the victim; but any attempt at grit or reality would be bad form and is decently avoided.  Mousetrap is more of a pleasing, and slightly intriguing, romp through 1950s middle-class eccentric-home-counties England than a sinister drama.  Therein lies part of its charm.  The performance Mrs Britain took me to several years ago was jolly good with some frightfully spiffing acting from the whole cast, though I thought that Helen Clapp as Mollie Ralston and Gregory Cox as the mysterious Mr Paravicini were particularly convincing.  And, no – I won’t tell you what happens, because that would spoil it.  Indeed, they ask you at the end not to divulge ‘whodunnit’ – which is fair enough.

St Martins Theatre, The MousetrapThe fun of Mousetrap envelops you such that you feel part of an intimate circle whilst watching it.  It is complemented by the ambience of St Martin’s Theatre, which has a plush, if somewhat cosy, auditorium and whose stage has been graced by some of the great British thespians of all time.  The theatre first opened its doors in 1916 and, though it apparently underwent a major redecoration as recently as the 1990s, it did strike me that some parts, including the toilets, somehow got missed in all the excitement just a generation ago.  So it has a certain period atmosphere.  The bar prices were appropriately 21st century, however; but, when we gallantly decided to give our custom, the barmen were playing that international game of seeing how long they could last without smiling at their customers.  Somehow, all of this added to the experience, rather like a bad odour in the countryside.

Anyway, if you thought that the mousetrap was a device to catch small rodents, think again.

The Mousetrap celebrated its 27,500th performance in September 2018. That works out at about 416 a year. Let’s hope it makes 30,000.

Visit the official website for The Mousetrap and St Martin’s Theatre to find out more.

37 thoughts on “The Mousetrap”

  1. When I was in eighth grade (thirteen years old) I traveled around England, Scotland and Wales with my mother. For a week she was attending a conference in London, and I was given free rein to wander around (I think I had a bus pass called a Red Rover pass?). My only responsibility was to buy theater tickets for us each night. I think we could see a show for a pound each if I bought the very cheapest seats. The show I remember most vividly was a musical version of the movie Hans Christian Anderson starring Tommy Steele. I don’t remember if we saw The Mouse Trap. What wonderful theaters there are in London! And do people still sell sausage rolls on the street? I used to eat a lot of them… Also chocolate bars with ginger in them. Yum.

  2. We have never seen a single production in the West End, although we’ve often planned to do so when we’ve stayed in or close to London. The Mousetrap will probably be our first – some time in the future when life gets back to normal. From your well written description, it sounds a lot of fun, especially as we both love ‘whodunnits’.

  3. lowcarbdiabeticJan

    I went and saw this many years ago now, and thoroughly enjoyed it.
    I do so hope it makes 30,000.

    All the best Jan

  4. artandarchitecturemainly

    1950s, middle class, Home Counties, charming and rural! Just how we used to love it . But that raises an interesting question: in a world that is constantly modernising, do today’s audiences appreciate the 1950s language, clothes, gender relations and so on? Or does the audience treat it a bit like a history lesson in high school?

  5. ‘The Mousetrap’ is now going on my list, ‘Things to Consider in the Future’. We do have a local link to the disappearance of AC. Her abandoned car was found by Surrey Police, at a local beauty spot called ‘Newlands Corner’. A nearby lake ‘Silent Pool’ was dredged. These days ‘Silent Pool’ is synonymous with the gin distillery which is based there.

    1. Fascinating – I didn’t know that and often used to drive past Newlands Corner before the M25 opened. Passing through Abinger Hammer was a highlight. Lovely part of the world.

  6. pollymacleod

    I saw the mousetrap over 20 years ago and thoroughly enjoyed it, and picked up a few of the clues. I was due to go again in Nov 2018 but I had a cold and a hacking cough, and much as I wanted to go I didn’t want to spread my germs around.

  7. I wish I was aware of this play when we were in London a couple of years ago. Add one more item to the list of things to do when we return!

  8. Oh, I didn’t think about that closing but of course, it did due to the virus.
    Richard and I saw “The Mousetrap” in Eastbourne in October 2019. We went to London later that week but I wanted to see it in Eastbourne because it was cheaper there. Yes, I am frugal! 🙂 Stay well!

  9. Hi Mike – amazing isn’t it … I must have seen it in the early 70s … when I thoroughly enjoyed it – and I do love her stories and shows … I knew it had been going a long long time – but hadn’t realised it was 67 years – incredible … while over 27,500 performances … also incredible! Great change of pace … taking me back – cheers Hilary

  10. In one of Christie’s novels everything hangs on someone skiing across the English countryside. When I read it I wondered why someone would have a pair of skis just hanging around. They’re not something you would get a lot of use from, even in the worst winter. They might have come in handy in 1947 and 1963, though.

  11. Marcia Brown

    I have seen it performed here in the US. Priceless. I believe I’ve read all her books, at least I set out to and think I did finish. Right now reading a PD James mystery, my first by that author but I think I like AC much better.

  12. Well, that’s absolutely on my “Hope to do someday” list now! I love Agatha Christie- just this week I downloaded collection of her mysteries (they’re better in hardcover, but until the libraries open again…) and have been enjoying revisiting them. Thanks for another idea to add to the list.

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