The Mousetrap – a classic whodunit

 Nicholas Hope (Major Metcalf), Christy Sullivan (Mollie Ralston) Justine Smith (Sargent Trotter) & Gus Murray (Giles Ralston). Image by James Morgan
Nicholas Hope (Major Metcalf), Christy Sullivan (Mollie Ralston) Justine Smith (Sargent Trotter) & Gus Murray (Giles Ralston) in The Mousetrap. Image by James Morgan

The Mousetrap is the world’s longest theatrical production.

It set up shop in London in 1952 and still invites its audiences every night into Monkswell Manor, as they solve the classic Agatha Christie whodunit. In celebration of its diamond jubilee, Australia is currently playing host to a national tour of this legendary play.

We open on a snowy evening in the British countryside – lovely effects (by designer Linda Bewick) keep the snow falling against the window, capturing the mood. A wireless report informs us of a murder, and we learn that the Ralstons are making their first go of it with their guest house, opening it up to the public that very night. Before you know it they’re all snowed in, there’s a murderer on the loose, and the time of one (possibly more) of the guests is numbered. Good thing there’s a police officer on hand to try and figure out who the killer might be before they strike again!

This production doesn’t pull any punches. It’s reliably, relievingly British and it’s unapologetically straightforward and sincere in its structure. It’s a detective story without any of the current-day grisliness; this isn’t Law and Order. The characters are proper, the jokes are light, the suspense comes in the form of a nursery rhyme (which is, admittedly, a bit creepy). The Mousetrap, for all its plot twists, is a comfortably uncomplicated night at the theatre. After all, what else but something so easily accessible, light and enjoyable could run uninterrupted for so many years?

The Australian cast is fantastic. A generally strong ensemble with a good handle on the required accents, they appeared comfortable with each other and with the work – which isn’t as much of a given as it sounds. Something like The Mousetrap, with all its requisite plot twists, requires a well-oiled and deftly-acted theatrical machine, and that was exactly what was on offer. Standouts amongst the cast included Christy Sullivan as the young mistress of the house Molly Ralston; Travis Cotton as the scene-stealer of the evening, the possibly-troubled Christopher Wren, and especially Justin Smith tackling the no-nonsense Detective-Sergeant Trotter.

When the play is over and the bows have been taken, we are informed that having viewed The Mousetrap we have thus become the company’s partners in crime. In the spirit of that bond, we’re requested to ‘keep the secret of The Mousetrap’ and not reveal the twists, turns, or the identity of the killer. So if you want to know more… you’ll have to go see it and join the club. There are only limited seats available for the Sydney run, and after that the trap will be set in Canberra, Perth, Melbourne, and Adelaide.

Cassie Tongue

Cassie is a theatre critic and arts writer in Sydney, and was the deputy editor of AussieTheatre. She has written for The Guardian, Time Out Sydney, Daily Review, and BroadwayWorld Australia. She is a voter for the Sydney Theatre Awards.

Cassie Tongue

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