by Agatha Christie
Director Robyn Nevin
Photo credit Brian Geach
Theatre Royal until October 30
Reviewed by Ron Lee, CSP
Agatha Christie’s The Mousetrap has been continuously running in London’s West End for seventy years. When I saw it there at St Martin’s Theatre in 1998, it seemed to be quite dated, so is this latest production at Sydney’s Theatre Royal worth seeing?
The play is set “in the present day”, which means late 1940s or early 1950s.
Newly married couple, Giles and Mollie Ralston, have turned an English manor into a guest house called Monkswell Manor and are welcoming their first guests who look like they came straight from Central Casting.
Over the wireless they hear of a murder that’s been committed in London, and there’s a link to Monkswell Manor.
Christopher Wren is a man-child who is on the spectrum with at least ADHD and Asperger's Syndrome. He’s a chatty pleaser who wants attention, and is keen to help and to keep occupied. As part of the perfect casting in this production, Laurence Boxhall is compelling.
Mrs Boyle is a cantankerous older woman who is perpetually dissatisfied. Now, what came first, the chicken or the egg? John Cleese and Connie Booth might well have seen The Mousetrap and modelled the Fawlty Towers character, Mrs Richards, after her. The other possibility is that director Robyn Nevin modelled Mrs Boyle on Mrs Richards. Either way, Australian theatre luminary Geraldine Turner shows her versatility in playing an older role.
Along the Fawlty Towers line, there’s a character called The Major. Alex Murphy’s Major reminded me of Inspector Henderson in The Adventures of Superman.
Giles (Alex Rathgeber) and Mollie are terribly, terribly British, and at the end as Mollie, Anna O’Byrne reveals her outstanding singing voice, even though it’s a simple tune.
Miss Casewell has returned to England for one specific purpose and we eventually find out what it is. In her debut, Charlotte Friels (for those in the business the answer to your next question is “yes”) is excellent in projecting the personality of the rebellious, independent young woman.
A mysterious Italian eccentric turns up unannounced, and Mr Paravicini is right in Gerry Connolly’s wheelhouse. The big personality and the mischievous and slightly sadistic laugh entirely suit Connolly’s performing style. He laps it up and doesn’t waste a moment.
Tom Conroy as Detective Sergeant Trotter pulls it all together to reveal the identity of the murderer. The audience is fed on a diet of red herrings that keep our attention.The play is set in one room, so with no moving parts, Isabel Hudson’s design looks as solid and immovable as an English countryside manor. There are several entrances and exits but it’s never played as a farce.
So is an Agatha Christie murder mystery still entertaining and relevant even though it premiered seventy years ago?
This production of The Mousetrap, with its exceptional cast under the direction of Robyn Nevin, whom I first saw performing at the Old Tote Theatre Company in the 1970s, is ultimately hugely enthralling and entertaining, and is definitely one for the “to see” list.
At the end of the original production in London, as with this one, audience members are asked not to share the ending with anyone, but Google didn’t exist at that time. It will be much more interesting for you to see the show without knowing whodunit, and to try to solve it in the moments during the performance.