Five guests, mine hosts and a skiing detective all to the tune of three blind mice . . .

Picture: Matt Crockett

The Mousetrap

Wolverhampton Grand


If Agatha Christie really was the Queen of Crime then this is her crowning glory, a play that must be near the top of even the most cursory theatregoers bucket list.

The world’s longest running production, reaching its 29,500 performance milestone in February, it has become an institution, a tourist attraction in its own right, yet at its heart it is a glorious murder mystery travelling merrily along Christie’s well trodden path.

The setting is an isolated, spawling country pile inherited by a recently married young couple, Mollie and Giles Ralston, who have turned Monkswell Manor into a guest house and we join them for their first foray into hospitality as they prepare to welcome their first guests.

That opens up the typical Christie ploy of bringing together a group of total strangers who perhaps are not quite who they claim or seem – while a blizzard outside blocking roads and access adds to the sense of isolation, everyone becoming marooned in the rambling old manor house.

All that is missing is that old Christie standby, the mysterious foreigner who attracts suspicion like iron filings to a magnet . . . so cue front door bell and who should have arrived but Mr Paravicini, snow covered, unannounced, seeking refuge after an argument with a snowdrift in his Rolls Royce . . . or so he says . . .


Steven Elliott as Mr Paravicini, the obligatory mysterious foreigner

The radio keeps telling us about a brutal murder of a woman in London, and the papers are full of it, a bit of sensationalism to pass the time as the guests settle in only to be unsettled by the arrival of the flying squad, or to be more accurate, DS Trotter on skis, as Monkswell, or at least it’s owners and guests, are somehow linked to the London murder . . .

But we are getting ahead of ourselves so back to the launch of the new challenger to Premier Inn and first to arrive is architect Christopher Wren, played with a wonderful, can’t keep quiet or still weirdness by Shaun McCourt, then comes Judith Rae having great fun in a splendid performance as the curmudgeonly Mrs Boyle. Mrs Boyle has the unerring ability to be able to criticise and moan about anything, only happy, you suspect when she is complaining, and probably even complains about having nothing handy to complain about. She is expecting and demanding premium Ritz service for her somewhat modest seven guineas a week full board (that’s £7.35 for you young whippersnappers).

You suspect she will live for ever as her maker surely will never want her back . . . just shows how wrong you can be - just don’t bother looking for her after the interval . . . just saying

Then we have Todd Carty, all spit and polish as ex-army chappie Major Metcalf (retd), we never do find out much about him and finally, until Paravicini pops up, we have Miss Casewell played with a sort of off hand air by Amy Spinks. All we know is she lives abroad, had a miserable childhood, and keeps herself to herself. 

That should have been it but then uppa poppsa da Meester Paracicini, in a lovely OTT performance full of asides and telling gestures from Steven Elliott.

And, keeping everyone happy, apart from Mrs Boyle, who at least someone puts out of her misery, we have Hollie Sullivan and Barnaby Jago as Mollie and Giles, the pair cleverly changing and evolving as the tension mounts. Giles shows no secret of his dislike of Wren who he slowly sees as first a threat to his wife, then as fears run wild even suspects him, somewhat ridiculously, as her lover, while Mollie, who merely feels sorry for the rather timid and uncertain Wren, is becoming increasingly frightened of Giles, realising she doesn’t know who he really is and why he lied to her.


Todd Carty as the steady, old army chap, retired Major Metcalf

Then of course we have Michael Ayiotis skiing in as DS Trotter, who seems a reasonable sort of chap when he arrives but Ayiotis gives him a harder edge when Mrs Boyle’s mortal coil gets shuffled off and, with the house cut off from the rest of the world, the perpetrator has to be someone (shock, horror) in Monkswell Manor . . .

Paracicini had been playing Three Blind Mice on the piano with one finger in the drawing room when Mrs Boyle entered the past tense and Trotter, with a policeman’s thoroughness, organises a reconstruction as he sets about solving the murder – but his time he wants Mrs Ralston playing on the piano explaining that he wanted “The same actions but not necessarily performed by the same people.”

Was I the only one who chuckled away wondering if Mrs Ralson was now going to give us a rendition of Grieg’s piano concerto?

Please yourselves . . . meanwhile back at the manor, the cast, under the direction of Ian Talbot and Denise Silvey build up the tension slowly, step by step, and, as with most Christie murder mysteries, shoals of red herrings swim by. You might have suspicions, no more than that as real clues are well hidden until the reveal in the final scene.

And here you get not just one twist, but a second, even better disguised one, that even Miss Marple and old Hercule would have missed.

As with all Christie’s works, to avoid appearing dated it has to be treated as what it has now become, a period piece and this 70th anniversary production (the play opened in 1952) does just that with a splendid, period set complete with 1950’s era wall lights, clipped accents, costumes of the time and a storyline which would never work today, but fits right in to that long passed age and which is brought to sparkling life on stage.

If you love murder mysteries this is a classic of its time, a real treat especially for Christie fans, and for theatre buffs – this is not so much a play as a phenomenon, so it’s a chance to see what all the fuss has been about for what is now 72 years . . . I would tell you who done it but sadly I have run out of space . . . the snow will keep falling and Mrs Boyle will still be complaining to 29-06-24.  

Roger Clarke


Index page Grand Reviews A-Z Reviews by Theatre