The Mousetrap has stood the test of time for a reason: the clever plot keeps you guessing.
It is the classic murder mystery set-up: a group of people are brought together in a particular location, when suddenly, one of them ends up dead. Now, the rest have to race against time to discover who amongst them is responsible, before the murderer strikes again.
The Mousetrap, however, is not just another whodunit; it is possibly THE whodunit, especially when it comes to stage. Penned by the Queen of Crime Agatha Christie herself, it is the longest play in the world, having opened in London’s West End in 1952 and playing continuously since then.
Having the opportunity to catch it in Kuala Lumpur, as part of the production’s Diamond Anniversary celebration, then, feels like a real privilege, and theatregoers will not be disappointed by the show, which is presented by the British Theatre Playhouse and Milestone Production.
The Mousetrap is set in Monkswell Manor, a guest house in the English countryside, where seven people, including the owners Giles and Mollie Ralston, are stranded thanks to a snowstorm. They hear news of murder in a nearby farmhouse, and a policeman, Sergeant Trotter, manages to reach them to ensure they are alright. When one of the seven people is myteriously murdered, however, the awful truth dawns upon the rest: that one of them in the house is the culprit.
As Sergeant Trotter tries to uncover who this could be, lies are exposed and secrets are revealed about every person there, making each one a plausible suspect; will the murderer be found before he or she strikes again?
The play is vintage Christie, and any fan of her works will feel a thrill watching her legacy come alive onstage. Brilliantly written, the script is so very British, with delicious lines of dialogue and a liberal dose of dry humour sprinkled throughout. Some parts of the play may feel slightly antiquated, particularly to a modern audience used to more gritty crime thrillers – however, there is also an elegance to the way the characters and plot are allowed to slowly develop that points to Christie’s mastery of the genre.
Adding to the experience is the fantastic set design, which is very much a part of the plot. Originally conceived in 1952 by Roger Furse, it was executed here by Malcolm J. McInnes (with Ken Wilkins consulting).
While it is just one main set — the great hall at Monkswell Manor — the use of multiple doors and clever positioning creates a very dynamic feel to the space, and often, the set itself is an essential part of the storyline. For all its simplicity, the way the physical boundaries of the set integrate with the storyline is theatre at its best.
One of the staging’s biggest pluses is an excellent cast, who ably carry the burden of bringing these classic characters to life. Playing these roles require a delicate balance, revealing a character’s personality while also keeping their motivations under wraps, and each actor manages this to great effect, keeping the audience on its toes the whole way through.
Chemistry and tension between the various cast members are also essential, and this is another aspect in which the performers excel. Some standout performances include Thomas Richardson as Sergeant Trotter, Richard Keightley as a quirky young architect named Christopher Wren, and Isla Carter as the much-put-upon proprietor Mollie.
No doubt, The Mousetrap has stood the test of time for a reason, and while bearing all the hallmarks of a classic, still ensnares the first-time viewer with its clever plot that keeps you guessing.
And as for who really did it, well now, that would be spoiling the fun, wouldn’t it?
>The Mousetrap is currently playing at Dewan Bandaraya Auditorium, DBKL Tower 1, Jalan Raja Laut in Kuala Lumpur till Oct 20 (8pm, with an additional matinee show on Oct 19). Tickets available from www.ticketcharge.com.my cost between RM80 and RM380. Hotline: 03-9222-8811.