The Mousetrap – Review – York Grand Opera House
The Mousetrap – Review
York Grand Opera House, May 2019
by Lisa Byrne
In these precarious days of coming last in Eurovision, our blustery politicians being doused in milkshakes and fears over Piers Morgan’s exploding ego, it is exceedingly comforting to spend a couple of hours residing at Monkswell Manor – despite having a murderer in our mist.
The drawing room of Monkswell sets the scene for The Mousetrap, penned by Dame Agatha Christie – believed to have made more money out of murder than any woman since Lucrezia Borgia. This long-running play has been such a huge success that no trip to London is complete without seeing the changing of the Guard, Buckingham Palace and this rather humble play, which Christie thought would be lucky to last an eight month run.
Part of its delight is that there are no special affects, mesmerising stage props or a cast of world-famous actors. It is a simple production; one drawing room where all the action takes place, but the vibrant plot involving eight characters, takes you on a rollocking roller coaster ride. There’s not a moment to allow your mind to wander as you may miss a crucial clue to this gripping storyline – though the magic of The Mousetrap lies in the fact that even amateur sleuths fall foul to suspecting each character as being the culprit, until the huge twist at the ending.
Despite being famed for its record-beating London run (first performance was at the Ambassadors in 1952 before moving to St Martins), The Mousetrap, under the direction of Gareth Armstrong, is now touring 30 regional theatres until October and is currently at York’s stunning Grand Opera House, where it’s proving hugely popular.
As the curtain rises you’re transported onto a traditional set – an exact copy of the one at St Martin’s Theatre – of a drawing room with antique furniture, sofas and the original 1950s mantelpiece clock. We first see the jolly owners, newly weds Giles and Mollie Ralston (played by Nick Biadon and Harriett Hare) rushing around preparing the manor for their first guests. These solitary travellers, armed with lashings of emotional baggage, arrive at intervals and are soon trapped in the snow-bound guest house.
Red herrings abound, prompting many laughs from the audience, as we concentrate on the plot and an array of characters. Much loved British actress Gwyneth Strong is fabulously grouchy playing snooty Mrs Boyle, while Lewis Chandler brings many gaffaws as the uber camp architect Christopher Wren. John Griffiths, in the role of old Major Metcalf and David Alcock as the mysterious foreigner Mr Paravicini – both roles played to perfection – wouldn’t look out of place in the dilapidated Fawlty Towers.
Saskia Vaigncourt-Strallen is fabulous as the vexed head-girl type Miss Casewell while police sergeant Trotter (Geoff Arnold), who arrives on skis, is relentlessly inquisitive, suspecting everyone, including the young hotel owners Mr and Mrs Ralston. Everyone is trapped with a murderer among them and there are no means of contacting the outside world which heightens the drama.
You can’t take any of the characters at face value as murky backstories start to unravel. Post ending we are courteously informed to please keep the ending secret, so all as I can say is that after a thoroughly entertaining evening, you’ll be humming the tune to Three Blind Mice all the way home.
images: Johann Persson