Mercury Theatre, Colchester
The Mousetrap is a theatrical enigma. It has run continuously since it opened in 1952 – almost in the same London theatre, it moved next door in 1974! Most people query why it has run for so long and been so successful. Even Agatha Christie admitted to being baffled by its enduring appeal. The current run at the Mercury is sold out.
I doubt, had social media been about in 1952, that the play would have become as intriguing as it is. For it is after the final curtain falls that the piece of marketing genius comes into play. The curtain rises again, and we are entreated by the cast to keep the mystery of “whodunit” close to our hearts so that others may enjoy.
Despite its longevity, life and circumstances had contrived against me and this was my first time to see The Mousetrap. I deliberately did no research, avoided talking about it and went to the theatre as, I suspect, one of the few adults in the audience to which this was a new experience.
My first impression was that this was far more farce like than murder-mystery. The first murder happens as a sound effect before the curtain rises. The introduction of the characters one by one, each obviously displaying traits of the killer, was pure Christie humour.
And therein lies a throwback to 1952, a theatre with a curtain is surely a novelty in this day and age, when normally a set is laid bare for all to see as we take our seats.
There was little to fault in this production nor it’s cast, led by Gwyneth Strong as Mrs Boyle. For me however, there was something missing. Christie herself described the play as “The sort of play you can take anyone to. It’s not really frightening. It’s not really horrible. It’s not really a farce.” In truth it is its longevity that has made it famous.
In a time when we are exposed to an endless diet of murder mysteries on streaming services, we are used to more complex story lines with more horrific murders. That itself is a sad reflection on what we call entertainment today!
The Mousetrap will no doubt continue to run to full houses. It will continue to provide stable employment for actors and will continue to be studied by those more curious about why it remains so successful rather than who the killer was.