REVIEW: Agatha Christie's The Mousetrap - The Queens Theatre 09/05/14

NO SPOILERS ARE INCLUDED IN THIS REVIEW.

What's more loved that a ripe and juicy whodunnit for the people of Britain to really get their teeth stuck into? Not much that's for sure.
The poster for The Mousetraps diamond
anniversary tour.
For me to reveal the ins and outs of Agatha Christie's The Mousetrap is classed as the equivalent of treachery in the performing arts industry and from my knowledge slip-ups have somehow been avoided. After running for 60 years, and earning the title of the continuous longest running play in history, we must come to the conclusion that those at The Mousetrap across the years must've been doing something right. And that they have.

After a long week at school and suffering with the consequences of exams, I had never been more ready than I was on Friday night to leave my world behind and visit The Queens Theatre in Barnstaple to become engrossed into the world of others; which is exactly what I did encounter.

The Mousetrap began with what can only be described as a typical setting for a murder mystery- a secluded guest house shut off from the world around them, a murder in the midst of a snow storm and 8 equally able characters who each seemed to have come right out of a game of Cluedo were left to provide us with red herrings and the most untimely situations to set your mind whirring. It really gave me a thrill to hear the whispers of those around me, each one mulling over possible outcomes. The engagement in the room was really incredible.
As for the murderer- who really would have expected it? But I am to stick to my word, and on request of the murderer at the final curtain call, I'd like to hope that me, and everyone else in the room will keep the secret and allow the legacy of The Mousetrap to continue.

The first scene begins in the newly opened guest house of Giles and Mollie Ralston, a very classic setting with four doors, plenty of stairs and hiding places which provided an image of the house continuing off stage. Here Giles and Mollie are waiting upon their first new arrivals, as a radio report blares out the news of a murder. The police are searching for a man of average height, wearing a dark overcoat, light scarf and soft felt hat. We then learn to discover that Giles Ralston and two of the other visitors - Christopher Wren and Miss Casewell - also own items of clothing that fit this description.
As the performance continues, we encounter the perfect recipe to a murder mystery: an uncountable amount of red herrings, and heaps of foreshadowing- both brought together with some classic humour that had the whole audience in laughter.

The first act does seem to drag slightly with the obvious use of pointless lines to set the audience in the wrong direction. Fortunately the arrival of Detective Trotter, who ski's in to warn the household that another murder is foreseen to take place there brings with him the now turned sinister tune of three blind mice, the secrets of those involved confided in others, and the murder of another key character.

If Act 1 was a tease, it had nothing on Act 2. Every few minutes my view on who was the murderer would change, was it the foreign Mr Paravincini who appeared from the corners in the manner of a vampire? Or the young Miss Casewell, whose troubled past was hindering her future? Or maybe the sarcastic Giles Ralston, who had been to London on the day of the murder and neglected to tell his wife? To find that out, you really must take a visit because for me to commit the crime of revealing the ending of The Mousetrap may lead to my own murder by those who have worked so hard to get it where it is.

The use of a variety of different tension-building techniques were so well used throughout The Mousetrap. The original murder was revealed to the audience during the first minute of the production, portrayed through the use of a scream at the repeated shout for police. Developing the murder in complete darkness gave the scene much more of a twisted tone and assisted in revealing very little to those watching. The repetition of the tune three blind mice made me and many others cower a little at how it could be made so eerie, and the use of lighting to assist in forming such an eerie atmosphere was well used to its advantage. Leading up to the murder the lighting seemed to darken as night came closer in, before being switched off completely during the murder at the end of the first half. After the murderer was revealed, I also realised how the darkening of the lights had also occurred at one other point in the performance. This was a key moment of foreshadowing that I feel slightly ashamed to not have picked up on.

The Mousetrap is a slick and well-though out production, this aided fully by the simple but effective directing of Ian Watt-Smith and a very strong cast of eight. My favourite character throughout being the cleverly named Christopher Wren, (played with ridiculous enthusiasm by Ryan Sanders) who lead to uncontrollable laughter due to his eccentric, childish personality. What really impressed me about Saunders is his ability to keep up his character all the way through the course of the performance. I found it impossible to believe that such a character was not real to life, and as the eight cast members gave their final bow and instructed us to keep the secret of The Mousetrap I was astounded to see that out of character Saunders seemed to be a different person all together.

Overall, the play had my mind in over-drive mode for the whole evening, was swift and very understandable. Everything was used to its advantage and other than small sections during the first half where you are naturally waiting eagerly for something big to happen, the whole performance was thoroughly enjoyable and well worth the trip.
The Mousetrap is among a variety of plays performed
at North Devon Theatres and are well worth
the watch. (Website)


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