‘The Mousetrap’ was iconic.
Calling all true crime fanatics, John Frost and Crossroads Live’s ‘The Mousetrap’ is the live-action, murder mystery you won’t want to miss solving.
Playing at Queensland’s Performing Arts Centre (QPAC) for a strictly limited season, Agatha Christie’s hit transports audiences back to the 1950s to not only commemorate the show’s 70th anniversary but to spotlight a classic whodunnit that leaves audiences guessing right until the final curtain call.
While the rights to this show have been restricted for quite some time, this production of ‘The Mousetrap’ presents a rare opportunity to see Christie’s epic tale, which smashed records in London’s West End. In Christie’s 1952 play, a party of seven strangers find themselves snowed in at a secluded countryside hotel. As word spreads of a murder in London, the visitors find – to their horror – that the murderer is among them. When the police arrive, suspicions erupt and each individual exposes their dark past. Which of them is the murderer? Who will their next victim be? From the comfort of their spectating seat, audiences are urged to solve this murder mystery and play detective.
As a mastermind in crime writing, Christie’s text is full of cliches, humour and good old-fashioned suspicion. There are moments of pure comedy, but the play is equally filled with dramatic intensity. This means tension is explored, played with and exploited, which in turn, makes Christie’s words run right off the page with pace and intrigue. Director, Robyn Nevin, gives each actor their moment in the suspect’s hot seat, creating quick action around the detailed space of many entrances and exits. This keeps audiences guessing, as the movement is choreographed exquisitely.
Associate Designer, Isabel Hudson, brings to life the original set design by Roger Fruse from the 1952 rendition of the play. Creating the living room, or The Great Hall at Monkswell Manor, the space is filled with splendour and magnificence. Doorways lead in circles around the set, while staircases ascend into an audience-imagined grand hotel. It’s the perfect playground for a farce.
In ‘The Mousetrap’, the set design is grand, but other design and production elements are minimalistic. That is, various scenes are topped and tailed by the curtain closing and opening, there are no complex sound effects or musical transitions, and audiences remain in the one setting (in time and place) without extravagant scenic changes. This is completely refreshing as the choice of simplistic realism allows the acting to star and the story to drive.
The cast all revel in their over-the-top, stereotypical characterisations. On the list of suspects are Mollie and Giles Ralston, Anna O’Byrne and Alex Rathgeber, respectively, the young newlyweds and owners of the regal manor that’s been converted into a guest house. Delightfully weird and camp house guest Christopher Wren, and the aloof Miss Casewell who means business, are played by Laurence Boxhall and Charlotte Friels. Uptight, picky and pompous Mrs Boyle is brought to life by Australian legend Geraldine Turner, and the character is accompanied by the disciplined military man Major Casewell, played by Adam Murphy. Christie’s Italian Poirot and spontaneous party latecomer, Mr Paravicini, sees accomplished Australian actor Gerry Connolly take to the stage. And finally, rounding everyone into line is the determined Detective Sergeant Trotter, played by Tom Conroy.
In an effort not to spoil the ending, or give away any character quirks, a highlight of the show is watching this supremely talented ensemble collectively work together. Most of the cast have experience in musical theatre, and in turn, seize the melodramatic style of the text. This means ‘The Mousetrap’ is a masterclass in acting, and it just feels like you’re playing a real-life game of Cluedo.
In a world where musicals dominate much of our stage time, ‘The Mousetrap’ really holds its own, solidifying why it’s one of the longest-running plays in history. With audience members abuzz at intervals, sharing secrets or clues they’ve picked up, this is the perfect outing for any crime junkie.
Get in before the case – or curtain – is closed.
‘The Mousetrap’ performs until Sunday, 20 November 2022 at Brisbane’s QPAC, before touring on to Adelaide, Melbourne and Parramatta. For more information visit the official ‘The Mousetrap’ website.