REVIEW: The Mousetrap − Gadzooks, what a spiffing good show

PUBLISHED: 15:58 25 June 2019 | UPDATED: 16:06 25 June 2019

An odd mix of people get snowed in at Monkswell Manor but who is not who they say there are?
Picture: Johann Persson

An odd mix of people get snowed in at Monkswell Manor but who is not who they say there are? Picture: Johann Persson

Archant

I had always wondered why a simple murder mystery has become the longest-running West End show of all time above all the technical wizardry, catchy songs and flamboyant staging of the modern musical, so I tiptoed towards the Bristol Hippodrome last night (Monday), deerstalker on head, and magnifying glass in hand, to catch the opening night of The Mousetrap.

Mrs Boyle, played by Gwyneth Strong, is a formidable woman but how is she connected to the goings on at the guest house?
Picture: Johann PerssonMrs Boyle, played by Gwyneth Strong, is a formidable woman but how is she connected to the goings on at the guest house? Picture: Johann Persson

The Agatha Christie who dunnit, which she wrote as a play in 1952, first opened in Nottingham in October that year and after travelling to a number of British cities, it arrived at London's Ambassadors Theatre a month later, where it remained for 22 years. It then moved to St Martins Theatre in 1974 where it still plays to packed houses today, 45 years on.

But what makes it so enduring was even a mystery to the mistress of suspense herself who 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."

The staging has never deviated from just the one-set - the living room of a grand stately home-cum-guesthouse, with doors, windows and staircase leading off, making it one of the easiest plays in the world to put on.

Having said that, the fully-working parts, including window, lamps and transistor radio help to make it an all-encompassing piece of theatre where you lose your surroundings and fully immerse yourself in the storyline as if you are a fly on the wall, rather than in the middle of a packed auditorium.

Is guest house owner Giles Ralston hiding something from the guests and his wife?
Picture: Johann PerssonIs guest house owner Giles Ralston hiding something from the guests and his wife? Picture: Johann Persson

All the ingredients of a typical who dunnit story are there; a mixed bunch of miscreants thrown together in a confined space in this case a couple who own a guesthouse and their guests, one appearing out of nowhere, and the ensuing tension culminating with someone getting bumped off.

Then along comes the detective, and there follows a web of lies, deceit and misdirection which untangle until everything falls into place at the end.

The touring production follows a long-held tradition set in the West End of having at least one well-known face among the cast members, and this year it is Only Fools And Horses stalwart Gwyneth Strong in the role of the hateful busybody Mrs Boyle. However no one actor shone above any other, being all equally brilliant in their respective roles.

My favourite is the much-misunderstood, funny and childlike Christopher Wren, played by Lewis Chandler, whose character provides a spot of light relief amid the revelatory proceedings.

There's been a murder at the guest house but can sergeantTrotter get to the bottom of it?
Picture: Johann PerssonThere's been a murder at the guest house but can sergeantTrotter get to the bottom of it? Picture: Johann Persson

I can only surmise from having now watched it, that the secret to its longevity quite simply is its quintessential Englishness - everyone enjoys bearing witness to a juicy murder and trying to work out who committed the heinous crime before whichever detective takes charge and this is its appeal and charm.

Of course, I can't reveal anything more about the plot than this and if I did I would probably have to kill you.

The Mousetrap is at The Bristol Hippodrome, in St Augustine's Parade, until tomorrow (Wednesday) with performances at 7.30pm.

Tickets, starting at £13, are available at www.atgtickets.com/bristol

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