REVIEW: The Mousetrap by Agatha Christie at Chichester Festival Theatre
The bitter-sweet nature of the nursery rhyme became a defining hallmark of many of Agatha Christie’s greatest whodunnits.
The dark underbelly of these rhymes lurking beneath the innocence of childhood captured in so many ways the stark contrast of her books.
So often they were set in sublime, privileged settings with evil just a scratch away beneath the surface.
The Mousetrap is Dame Agatha’s most famous play. It is her most successful. It has been running continuously since 1952 in the West End and has broken one box office record after another.
And like so many of her remarkable books, it is a nursery rhyme which underscores the entire piece - in this case Three Blind Mice.
That apart, all the normal Christie ingredients are to be found in abundance. A stately country home, a fresh fall of Christmas snow, a group of stranded guests each one of whom could be concealing dark secrets. And a plot which moves at a traditional Christie sprint to a perfectly unorthodox conclusion.
The detective in this case is not drawn from the Poirot or Marple drawer. It is an unknown. But Christie’s best works are sprinkled with one-off crime solvers such as Sgt Trotter.
But it is not the cast that are the stars of this play. Nor even the plot. The play itself is now a part of English folklore and establishment. The Mousetrap towers like some huge institution, as much a part of London as the Houses of Parliament, Harrods, and Buckingham Palace itself.
Indeed, it began life as a short radio play in honour of Queen Mary, so it has an impressive Royal pedigree too.
It’s finally on tour, taking its surprise to new audiences.
Chichester loved it.
For me, it holds nothing but happy memories. Of seeing it first on my 21st birthday in London and of talking about its wonders with long-standing producer Sir Stephen Waley-Cohen many years ago when he was a director of a newspaper company for which I then worked.
Long may this great theatrical institution continue to tease, inspire, and reassure us that Dame Agatha remains the undisputed Queen of Crime.
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