There are very few plays that can claim such a famous and elongated history as Agatha Christie's The Mousetrap. Having enjoyed a seemingly never-ending run in London's West End for over 63 years, with 40 of those years seeing the play reside in its most popular location at St Martin's Theatre, it could almost be said to have somewhat supernatural qualities of longevity. However, there is nothing supernatural here - it is merely Agatha Christie in all her cunning murder mystery glory and any dedicated amateur sleuth will be delighted by such a production as this at Wolverhampton Grand Theatre.
Before the curtain even rises, the tone and time period are clearly established through the use of excellent music and then intensified by the revealing of a gloriously decorated and lavish set. Everything is perfectly crafted, exactly as you would imagine it to be, from the expertly painted wood panelling to the old fashioned leaded windows and we are instantly transported to this ill-fated guest house in the middle of nowhere.
Our first suspects are house owners Giles and Mollie Ralston (played by Mark Homer and Esther McAuley). They are simultaneously an odd match and yet a very loving one with Giles' dry wit and Mollie's brisk efficiency and the tenderness between them is clear. This serves only to highlight the growing tension between them as the plot unfolds later and both are played with conviction and skill.
Our first guest explodes onto the stage in the form of Edward Elgood's Christopher Wren and the sheer energy and enthusiasm contained within his performance leaves us exhausted whilst watching. He is soon joined by the traditionally blustery Major Metcalf (played by William Ilkley), the dour, pedantic and increasingly irritating Mrs Boyle (played very expertly by Anne Kavanagh) and the tight-lipped yet charmingly self sufficient Miss Casewell. Special mention here must go to understudy Jocasta King who took on the latter role with excellent flair, balancing nicely between disdain and the clear desire to suppress her past wherever possible.
Last to arrive are Mr Paravicini (slimily and intrusively played by Jonathan Sedgewick) and the brash, direct Sgt Trotter (Luke Jenkins) who strives to solve the crime with dire consequences.
The story unfolds beautifully, with good pace and much room for humour, allowing us to view the interactions of the characters with a more than suspicious eye. The introduction of each plot twist boldly encourages the audience to become detectives as the play progresses and soon we are desperately consulting those 'little grey cells' , furiously assigning motives and alibis as they are revealed. The cast play an intriguing game of emotional tennis, diving between comedy and palpable tension with ease and the final ending is nothing short of brilliant.
I strongly advise you to don your deerstalker, take up your knitting and see if your sleuthing skills can meet the challenge so deftly laid at your feet in this production of quintessentially British brilliance.
The Mousetrap runs until 4 July. For more information and to book tickets, visit grandtheatre.co.uk or call 01902 429 212.
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