REVIEW: Agatha Christie’s Mousetrap offers a lot to talk about, but I won’t spoil the ending

Esther McAuley as Mollie Ralston. Picture by Liza Maria Dawson,
Esther McAuley as Mollie Ralston. Picture by Liza Maria Dawson,

Agatha Christie’s The Mousetrap, The Capitol, Horsham, October 6

The Mousetrap, Agatha Christie’s classic murder mystery, has been going strong for at least 60 years.

And for good reason – it’s a brilliantly written thriller that takes place in the most atmospheric of settings, an imposing guesthouse cut off by a snowstorm.

The plot offers a lot to discuss, especially when you find out ‘whodunnit’.

But I’ve been sworn to secrecy. It’s tradition for the cast to ask their audience not to give the ending away to people who haven’t seen the show yet.

So, with that in mind, I’ll talk about what I can.

One of The Mousetrap’s strengths is the way it makes each character significant and interesting, which encourages the actors to get the most out of their meaty roles.

Here, Hester Arden conveys a kind of cynical dissatisfaction with the world as Miss Casewell, William Ilkley is eerily calm and pragmatic as Major Metcalf and Luke Jenkins displays a stern professionalism in the face of danger as Sgt Trotter.

Esther McAuley and Alex Wadham have an endearing onstage relationship as the recently married Mollie and Giles Ralston. However, as the play progresses both performers expose their characters’ buried feelings of distrust and desperation.

Jack Lewis, replacing Jonathan Sidgwick tonight, puts in a suitably slimy but surprisingly charming performance as Mr Paravicini. No matter what happens in the tale, Paravicini can’t seem to take any of it seriously, mocking other characters’ vulnerabilities in a way that’s both cruel and amusing.

Anne Kavanagh plays Mrs Boyle beautifully, presenting an irritable older woman with a set of personal rules about how things should be done. Naturally, she’s exasperated when others don’t conform to her expectations. Mrs Boyle is possibly the most unlikable character here, but Anne gives her a sense of fear and fragility that allows us to empathise a bit.

The successful balancing act between these individuals means that it’s difficult, objectively, to find a stand-out performance. All I can do really is choose my personal favourite, which is Edward Elgood as the improbably named Christopher Wren.

Edward reveals Christopher’s enthusiasm and childishness in a way that’s very funny and rather sad, as he annoys other characters without annoying the audience. This may not have been Edward’s intention but I was reminded of a young Rik Mayall.

Some may argue that such a comedic performance is inappropriate for a murder mystery, but it works very well here. We know that at least one of the characters is going to buy it, so why not lighten the mood a little?

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