Spiffingly produced and splendidly acted, Agatha Christie’s evergreen whodunit The Mousetrap keeps audiences ever in its thrall.
Commemorating the play’s seventieth anniversary, the current Australian tour of The Mousetrap is fortuitously timed to ride a crest of reawakened love for murder mysteries. From the boffo Knives Out franchise to breakout Disney+ hit Only Murders in the Building to newly minted retro charmer Poker Face, murder, it seems, is everywhere.
Opening their brand new country guesthouse, Giles and Mollie Ralston soon find themselves and their guests trapped by relentless snow with a madly motivated murderer on the scene. Mysteries mount up as simmering secrets come to light, and the murderer continues their mission to dispatch “three blind mice.”
Perfectly preserved in its post-war period setting, The Mousetrap sparkles anew under the delightfully deft direction of Robyn Nevin. Christie’s knowing winks to the traps and traditions of the genre bring welcome laughs before the mood turns more sombre, taking the audience breathlessly along with it. The combination of incisive writing, meticulous direction and focused performances combine for an authentically suspenseful experience mercifully free of anything camp or twee.
Under Nevin’s judicious direction, aspects of the seventy-year old text that are clearly sexist and even racist are played with such truth that the audience can only gasp in wonder at how times have changed. The effect is so much more powerful than the modern predilection for simply cutting anything that might be even moderately offensive. One other note about the quality of Nevin’s direction: diction is absolutely pristine.
On a recreation of the handsome original set, Isabel Hudson provides characterful costumes that have a comfortably cosy air. Lighting designer Trudy Dalgleish adds to the pleasant sense of warmth with wall sconces, lamps and a large glowing fireplace.
The Mousetrap boasts a strong ensemble cast, and yet the nature of the role of angst-torn landlady Mollie and the quality of the performance of Anna O’Byrne combine to provide a glowing central focus. An actress of considerable emotional intelligence, O’Byrne’s performance, particularly in act three, is the foundation of the success of this production, bringing a palpable sense of truth and heart to the unfolding drama.
O’Byrne is very well partnered by Alex Rathgeber as cheerily supportive fellow proprietor Giles.
In a welcome mainstage appearance, veteran actress Geraldine Turner does not shy from the rampant unpleasantness of retired judge Mrs Boyle. Styled with a moustache that appears to be an homage to Agatha Christie’s iconic detective Hercule Poirot, Gerry Connolly brings delightful personality to mysterious “foreigner” Mr Paravicini.
Laurence Boxhall delights as daffy lover of architecture, Christopher Wren. Charlotte Friels successfully wraps Miss Casewell in layers of intriguing mystery. Tom Conroy commands the investigation scenes with flair as Detective Sergeant Trotter. Adam Murphy lends solid support as kindly retired military man Major Metcalf.
With such an abundance of musical theatre stars on stage, it is no surprise to hear a lush vocal arrangement of classic nursery rhyme “Three Blind Mice” from the cast following the curtain call.
The scarcity of touring productions of plays makes this season of The Mousetrap even more of a treasure. Lovers of the murder mystery genre will find plenty to enjoy.
The Mousetrap plays at Comedy Theatre, Melbourne until 26 March 2023. For tickets, click here.
The Mousetrap plays at His Majesty’s Theatre, Perth in April 2023. For tickets, click here.
The Mousetrap plays at Canberra Theatre in May 2023, For tickets, click here.
The Mousetrap returns to Playhouse, Brisbane in May 2023, For tickets, click here.
The Mousetrap plays at Riverside Theatres, Parramatta in June 2023. For tickets, click here.
Man in Chair reviewed the 2012 Melbourne season of The Mousetrap.
Photos: Brian Geach
Simon, a wonderful review which makes me even more determined to go and see the production. I liked your comment about the 70 yr. old text being delivered with “truth” that is potentially shocking in these days of “P.C correctness”. Of-course I would expect nothing less than perfection from Anna O’Byrne. You recall that she was Mrs Lovett in the SMGS production of “Sweeney Todd” of which I was the M.D. Anna won the Vic Theatre Guild prize for best youngster; she arrived at the first rehearsal having all her lines and music thoroughly learnt, and that of most of the other principles – already developing a 100% professional attitude. I’m very much looking forward to seeing “The Mousetrap”. CJH
Thanks, Christopher. I feel confident you will be very impressed with Ms O’Byrne’s performance. She clearly still maintains an extremely dedicated approach to her craft.
My wife, 11 year old son and I went last night and loved the show, a truly remarkable production and I agree the performance of Anne O’Byrne was truly sensational.
Glad to hear that you and your family were as impressed with Ms O’Byrne as I was.
Fingers crossed we will see her on stage again soon, hopefully in a musical theatre role that plays to her full suite of strengths.
I saw the play on Sunday afternoon. I had seen it 3 times before in London, but this was so much fun. I have recommended it to everyone at work with some even booking tickets.
Loved it and congratulations to all involved with the show.
Am amazing to think that our local cast can be better than the West End, but I totally agree about the level of fun!
I’m disappointed that there has been a lack of conversation about the lack of diversity in this cast. I was in London a year ago and I saw a beautifully racially diverse/ ‘colour blind’ cast. It seems us Aussies have a long way to go. If we think ‘older’ and ‘British’ it equals white people. It’s a shame that after Hamilton and Six touring, that we still can’t even mention or address it.
It stings, also, considering that the director is an older, possibly well to do, white woman, of the ‘theatre.’
Let’s have a conversation and not ignore the elephant in the room.
I will still see the show and applaud – but as a theatre culture, it seems we still have a lot of work to do.
State theatre companies are doing much of the work in this area, and doing it very thoroughly. I guess the commercial sector takes longer to catch up.
Nathan – “older” and “British” does equal white people! This is a pristine period piece designed to maintain its significance to both its writer Agatha Christie and to its staging in 1952. Christie did not write for a coloured cast and “diversity” was not a word that existed in the British theatre lexicon in the 1950s.