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Classic murder mystery tours the UK
It has been running in London since 1952 but there's no stopping Agatha Christie's The Mousetrap. The touring version arrived at Birmingham's New Alexandra Theatre having racked up over 1,000 performances across the country.
Trapped: Lewis Collier, Gregory Cox and Amy Downham in The Mousetrap (pic: Liza Maria Dawson)
The promotional poster states 'Suspect Everyone' and that's just as it should be in a Christie 'whodunnit?'. The Mousetrap ticks all the boxes of the classic murder mystery. A group of people are snowed up in a newly opened country guest house. All seem to be hiding secrets the husband and wife, married for just a year, who own and run the establishment; the hyperactive young architect; the Major with an interest in old buildings (especially cellars); the grumpy old lady (who looks likes The Governess from TV's The Chase!); the mysterious young woman who is reluctant to reveal where she's from; and the strange foreigner who just happens to stumble on the guest house after crashing his car close by.
Secrets: Anna Andresen in The Mousetrap (pic: Liza Maria Dawson)
Into their midst arrives Sgt Trotter, who announces that there is a murderer among them but who is it? I'm obviously not going to reveal the identity that's a tradition the cast urged the audience to maintain at the end of the performance but I will say it's a complex plot that's woven together beautifully by a first class cast directed by Ian Watt-Smith.
Anna Andresen and Nick Barclay as Mollie and Giles Ralston are believable as the inexperienced guest house owners, while Gregory Cox as the foreign gentleman Mr Paravicini and Oliver Gully as architect Christopher Wren do their best to see who is best at overacting. This leads to some well-deserved laughs from the audience. Amy Downham as Miss Casewell, is the opposite, underplaying the role as she tries to deflect any questions about who she is and where's she's from.
Hyperactive: Oliver Gully as Christopher Wren (pic: Liza Maria Dawson)
Sarah Whitlock as grumpy Mrs Boyle also elicits some humour, while Tony Boncza as Major Metcalf appears to have wandered in from the board game Cluedo. It's a wordy play, full of explanation and exposition, and sometimes Lewis Collier as Sgt Trotter seems to rush his lines in order to keep to the running time, making it difficult to hear what he says. Just a minor moan and it didn't spoil the enjoyment of the production.
Cluedo: Tony Boncza as Major Metcalfe (pic: Liza Maria Dawson)
Many critics have questioned why The Mousetrap still attracts the crowds. Agatha Christie herself appeared to have the answer. She 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 Mousetrap is at Birmingham's New Alexandra Theatre until November 5, 2016. The tour then continues:
Nov 7 12: Assembly Hall, Tunbridge Wells; Nov 14 19: Shanklin Theatre; Nov 28 Nov 30: New Theatre, Oxford; Dec 1 3: The Sands Centre, Carlisle;
Dec 5 10: Aberystwyth Arts Centre.