Agatha Christie’s The Mousetrap has thrilled and delighted audiences for over 60 years.
The renowned play premiered in London’s West End in 1952 and has since become the longest continuously running play in the world and a cultural phenomenon, inspiring countless parodies and adaptations. Set in a remote English guesthouse, a group of strangers become trapped together during a snowstorm and somehow find themselves as suspects in a murder. With plenty of twists and turns, the play keeps the audience guessing until the very end.
The current national tour stars acclaimed performer Anna O’Byrne as Mollie Ralston, proprietor of Monkswell Manor.
Anna has an established international career spanning opera, theatre, concert, and film. She is well known for her Helpmann winning performance as Eliza Doolittle in Opera Australia’s My Fair Lady, as well as Christine Daaé in the Australian cast of Love Never Dies. Anna made her West End debut in The Phantom of the Opera, revisiting the role of Christine, and went on to star in The Woman in White, Strangers on a Train, Kings of Broadway, Amour, Sweeney Todd, and A Little Night Music while abroad.
The Mousetrap is the longest running play in history – why do you think audiences are still so drawn to it?
Anna: Those facts kind of go over your head a bit [laughs]. You think yeah, sure, it’s been around for ages, it must be a bit of an old hat. But when we started rehearsals, we were all like, “gosh, this is a really good play.” I mean, Agatha Christie wrote it, so it’s not an adaptation. I think a lot of people think that it’s maybe an adaptation of one of her novels, or that someone else has had a hand in it, but she she wrote the whole thing, and tnd that’s really incredible. It really holds up, and it’s quite modern in some ways. There’s a lot of discussions about gender, sexuality, and trauma that come up within the play, which I don’t think I was expecting. I don’t think I was expecting her to be as forward looking as as she was in her writing of this. She explores that in the best way, which is through these really compelling characters. It’s funny because nowadays we would think that they’re a little bit ‘stock’, but perhaps because what she wrote has become the ‘go to’. They’re sort of the originals in a lot of ways.
Do you see any of yourself in Mollie?
Anna: She’s really no nonsense, and she’s a little bit feisty. She’s funny. She’s a newlywed. So the relationship between Molly and Giles, her husband (played by Alex Rathgeber) is really interesting to to explore because they’ve been married a year, so there’s things they learn about each other that maybe weren’t so apparent in the courtship. But it’s done with this very deft hand, and with this very British sense of humour. Mollie is the owner of Monkwell Manor, she’s inherited it, so there’s also this really interesting dynamic where she possibly wants to be a proprietor a little bit more than Giles. She’s really spearheading a lot of the discussions that they have about the running of the house and how things are going to go, and that’s really interesting to play as well.
How have you found working on a straight play?
Anna: It’s always been something that I’ve wanted to do, to kind of balance the rest of my career with. So when the opportunity came up to play this role, in this show, with this company of actors, with the amazing Robyn Nevin at the helm directing us… how could I say no [laughs]. I haven’t done a play since I was on the West End, which was Strangers on a Train, based on a Patricia Highsmith novel, another 1950s style British play. It’s definitely something I’d like to do more of, it’s not necessarily like by design that I keep singing so much! And I mean, having a commercial play touring as well is really great for the Australian industry.
Why should audiences come and see The Mousetrap?
Anna: I think this show has something for everybody. If you don’t like musical theatre, there’s no singing. If you do like musical theatre, you can see a whole bunch of people who are more known for musical theatre stretching their acting chops. We’ve got such incredible people in our company – Geraldine Turner, Adam Murphy, Alex Rathgeber… people who are more known for musical theatre, but who are outstanding actors in their own right. It’s really funny, it’s moving, it’s really fast paced. We never let you sit in anything for too long. Agatha doesn’t let you sit in things [laughs]. So you’re not going to get bored. There’s a whole lot of fun fifties costumes to look at. It’s just a really entertaining night at the theatre, I think you’ll find yourself drawn into the story. And it’s been selling out everywhere. People are going wild!
Agatha Christie’s The Mousetrap is playing now at Melbourne’s Comedy Theatre.
For tickets and more information, visit themousetrap.com.au