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The stage adaptation of Agatha Christie’s classic.

Not only has everybody heard of Agatha Christie’s The Mousetrap, everybody’s seen the show as well - haven't they?... 

Okay, maybe not, but as the production recently celebrated its 70th consecutive year in the West End, it's fair to say its capacity to put bums on seats is absolutely beyond question. 

Not surprisingly the world's longest-running show, its touring version here makes a welcome return to the Midlands, with EastEnders’ Todd Carty and Only Fools And Horses’ Gwyneth Strong top-billing.

Having made its debut some 70 years ago, Agatha Christie’s The Mousetrap is the ‘world’s longest-running play’ with a continued capacity to put bums on seats. It’s touring version makes a welcome return to the Midlands this month with former Grange Hill and Eastender actor, Todd Carty, starring alongside Gwyneth Strong (Cassandra in Only Fools And Horses) and Eastender’s baddie, John Altman. What’s On recently caught up with Todd to chat about his current role - and more...

What attracted you to The Mousetrap, Todd?
I saw it about 40 years ago, when I was a much younger man. I remembered it being such a great play, and I’ve always been an Agatha Christie fan, having first gotten hooked on her storytelling by seeing the Margaret Rutherford/Miss Marple films on TV. Now here I am 40 years later playing Major Metcalf in the UK & Ireland tour. It’s fantastic.
How would you describe Major Metcalf and his role in the story?
He’s a retired Army major and one of the guests in a guesthouse in the countryside. All of the characters have a secret and a mysterious background that audiences can’t quite put a finger on. The audience becomes the detective, trying to work out who’s up to no good and who isn’t, along with the real detective on stage. Major Metcalf appears to be a typical ex-Army guy. He enjoys the odd drop of brandy in the evening and maybe the odd drop of Scotch at lunch. On the face of it, he seems to want to help people, but every now and then the characters in the play disappear and we don’t know what they’re up to, Major Metcalf included.
The show is celebrating its 70th anniversary. How do you account for its longevity?
I honestly don’t know. We’re opening at the Theatre Royal, Nottingham, where it premiered back in 1952 before a short tour and then moving to the West End, where it continues to play. I think basically we all like a whodunnit because we’re all amateur detectives; we’re all modern-day Columbos. I’ve been to see the show again recently, and in the audience there are kids of 13 right up to grandmas and granddads, all going ‘He did it’ or ‘No, it was her or him.’ When I first saw it, I couldn’t quite work it out myself, but it’s great fun trying to figure out who the killer is.

You came to fame in Grange Hill. What are your memories of that time?
Not to give my age away, I’d been acting since I was four. I loved doing all those adverts when I first started out, but Grange Hill changed my whole life. One day I was happily going to school, the next day I was Tucker Jenkins. The day before it first aired in 1978, nobody on the tube knew who I was, then the next day it was ‘Bang!’. Anonymity was a thing of the past.
What have been your favourite jobs over the years?
I loved doing EastEnders and The Bill. I also did five years on and off playing Patsy in Spamalot, and that was brilliant. I’d sing Always Look On The Bright Side Of Life every night and there’d be seven and eight-year-olds singing along, Mum and Dad singing it, Granny and Granddad, and they all knew the words.
What do you most enjoy about doing stage work?
It sounds obvious and clichéd but it’s the audience. When you’re doing a panto and all the kids are getting involved and shouting back, going ‘Oh yes he did!’ and ‘Oh no he didn’t!’, it’s a great feeling. Plays are different, but the audience is listening to every word, and with The Mousetrap they’re thinking ‘Ooh, I thought it was so and so.’ I love live theatre, and it’s especially pleasing now, after the pandemic, when people who work in theatre had a really tough time. It’s great being around other actors and crew members again. I can’t tell you how much it warms our hearts to be back in front of an audience.
What are you most looking forward to about taking the show around the country?
Just the different reactions from different audiences. They always vary depending on where you are in the country, and every night is different, with different reactions to different parts of the show. There’s a real appetite now for seeing good shows and supporting theatre. A lot of the people coming along will be Agatha Christie fans, but they also tend to bring family members and friends with them, saying ‘You’ve got to come and see this.’ That means a whole new audience is introduced to the show, as well as existing fans. As for the cast and crew, we’ve been really happy during rehearsals, and I’m sure we’ll be just as happy when we’re on the road.

on Wed, 26 Oct 2022

Is there anybody who doesn’t know that Agatha Christie’s The Mousetrap is the world’s longest-running play? This fact, the source of many a quiz question, begs another question; does the play stand the test of time? 
The answer, based on the warm reception of the audience last night, is a definite yes. 
First performed in 1952, The Mousetrap is back in the Midlands this week, showing at the Wolverhampton Grand until Saturday.
The plot is pure Christie; seven people isolated by a snow storm in a remote country house discover that there is a murderer in their midst when Detective Sergeant Trotter (Michael Ayiotis) arrives to solve the crime. Shock, fear and confusion follow as he attempts to uncover the truth - and as we learn more about the characters’ past lives, the mystery deepens...
So much about this production is classic (the snowy scene, the roaring fire, the chintz sofa and the panelled drawing room) and yet new life is breathed into the story by the accomplished and lively cast. Hollie Sullivan and Barnaby Jago as Mollie and Giles Ralston, a young couple who have just opened Monkswell Manor as a boarding house, are at first a picture of recently married bliss. As their first guests arrive, tension rises, and subsequent revelations about secret trips to London reveal clear cracks in their relationship.
An unlikely mixture of random characters, gathered together by fate, is of course essential to the plot. Judith Rae is a beautifully acerbic Mrs Boyle, finding fault with absolutely everything and everyone. Todd Carty plays Major Metcalf as the quintessentially English gent, a pillar of society. Christopher Wren (Shaun McCourt) is an annoyingly chirpy man-child, incapable of walking anywhere, preferring instead to travel round the stage at a half-run as he sings nursery rhymes and infuriates the more strait-laced members of the group. Miss Casewell (Amy Spinks) brings more mystery; the reasons for her visit are vague and she refuses to say exactly where she lives “abroad”. The equally enigmatic Mr Paravicini, played by Steven Elliot as a most charming ladies’ man who arrives, unannounced, to find shelter from the snow, completes the group and the scene is set. As details of the past lives of this disparate band of boarding house guests are unveiled, the plot thickens...
Michael Ayiotis gives the stand-out performance as the dogged detective sergeant. He will, it seems, stop at nothing to get to the truth, and he commands both the stage and the other characters in his mission to do so. 
The play ends with an unexpected plot-twist, of course...
Though more than 70 years old, The Mousetrap remains fresh and relevant. Why this play is still loved by audiences after all these years is surely no mystery

Reviewed by Rachel Smith on Tuesday 25 June at the Wolverhampton Grand Theatre, where it runs until this Saturday (the 29th).  

5 Stars on Tue, 25 Jun 2024

As part of its 70th anniversary tour, Agatha Christie’s  The Mousetrap has arrived at the Lichfield Garrick.

This classic whodunnit, written by the best selling novelist of all time, has been running in London continually - Covid interruption aside - since 1952, making it the longest-running play in the world, with over 30,000 performances having been staged.

There are seven performances in Lichfield this week. If you have never seen The Mousetrap, the chances are that you won’t know who did it, as the identity of the murderer is theatreland’s best-kept secret. So get your tickets now and find out!

The play is set in Monkswell Manor, a remote countryside guest house. There is a single set, which makes clever use of various props, including rattling windows and a roaring fire. The passage of time is shown by the changes we see through the window. Multiple doors on set open up the rest of the house without you ever seeing it. Add to this the strong cast of eight, and you have all you need for an evening of dramatic revelations and dizzying plot twists. 

The story is straightforward. There has been a murder in London, 30 miles away. The first guests arrive at the recently opened manor and are soon snowed in along with their hosts.

Detective Sergeant Trotter arrives and reveals to the group that the killer is amongst them - as is the next victim. 

Each character reveals secrets from their past, and we are drawn into their lives in true Agatha Christie style. Dramatic revelations make it clear that nothing is quite as it seems, leaving us asking the biggest question of them all: “Who is the guilty one?”

The cast of characters are very much classic Agatha Christie. The Mousetrap is truly an ensemble piece, where everyone is a suspect and a potential victim. As the play gains momentum in the second half, Trotters’ questioning leads to mistrust and suspicion. There are comedy moments to enjoy along the way. 

Each member of the cast brings their own strengths to their character and to the play. It would be difficult to say who stands out, as they all work so well together, giving us a nostalgic view of post-war England.

The packed house at the Garrick was reminded, as the audience always is, to keep ‘The Mousetrap secret’. It is testament to the quality of the play and the respect we hold for Agatha Christie that this secret remains secure.

Reviewed by Liz Day at Lichfield Garrick, Monday 27 March. The show runs at the Garrick until Saturday (1 April) then at the following venues: Regent Theatre, Stoke-on-Trent, Mon 3 - Sat 8 AprilWolverhampton Grand Theatre, Tues 25 - Sat 29 June

5 Stars on Mon, 27 Mar 2023

One of the delights of The Mousetrap is that while it might be the world’s longest-running play, it also contains one of the planet’s best-kept secrets. Because if you’ve never seen Agatha Christie’s classic murder mystery – and I hadn’t until tonight – then chances are you don’t know whodunnit.

Theatre-goers have kept tight-lipped on that particular matter for 70 years in a pact of secrecy that only adds to the enigmatic charm of a show that remains exclusive to those same audiences. The cinema crowd have never got to see it because even though the movie rights were sold in 1959, they contained a proviso that a film couldn’t be made until the London stage production had been closed for at least six months. And that’s never happened (recent Covid interruptions notwithstanding).

There’s surely a mystery thriller, or at least money, to be made from forcing its closure so the film version can get the green light, but who would dare do that? And how? Could it be as simple as breaking rank and revealing the identity of the killer?

While you’re pondering those mysteries, how about another conundrum: where were the best-known stars of the show on its opening night at the Belgrade? Both Todd (Tucker Jenkins/Mark Fowler) Carty and Gwyneth (Only Fools and Horses’ Cassandra) were ‘indisposed’ for the performance I saw, which somewhat spoiled my plans to imagine EastEnders’ cliffhanger drumbeats at every dramatic revelation.

And there are plenty of dramatic revelations in this consummately-performed touring production – understudies Nicholas Maude and Judith Rae slipping seamlessly into proceedings alongside excellent performances from the likes of Joelle Dyson (another former EastEnder) and Joseph Reed – which sees seven strangers snowed in at a remote country guesthouse as news of a gruesome murder in London is relayed over the wireless. The arrival of a police sergeant suggests the killer is among them – as well as his potential victim or victims – and we’re soon in the thick of the mystery, trying to solve the crime before he does.

Everyone could’ve done it of course, everyone has a secret, and there are more red herrings than Billingsgate Fish Market, but that’s all part of the fun, and while some of the laughs (a murder scene?) and caricature characters are dated, and the background plot perhaps a little dark for something so light, there’s a feelgood nostalgia to proceedings that means the legendary play – and the secret at its heart – remains something to hold on to.

3 stars

Reviewed by Steve Adams at the Belgrade Theatre on Monday 13 February. The Mousetrap continues to show at the theatre until 18 February.

3 Stars on Tue, 14 Feb 2023

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