Review by Tim Garratt
Originally written as a short radio play as a birthday present for Queen Mary, Dame Agatha Christie’s The Mousetrap opened in London’s West End in November 1952. Since then, it has run continuously in the world-famous theatre district (interrupted only once – by the COVID-19 pandemic) and, to date, has played over 28,500 performances, unsurprisingly making it the West End’s longest-running play.
The new Australian production of The Mousetrap, now playing at Sydney’s Theatre Royal, has been mounted to commemorate the 70th anniversary of its London opening. Directed by Robyn Nevin, the production brings together a hugely talented cast of eight for a highly entertaining ‘whodunit’ experience.
Set just outside of London in winter 1952, events in The Mousetrap unfold inside Monkswell Manor (wonderfully recreated here by Isabel Hudson). Its newlywed owners, Mollie and Giles Ralston (Anna O’Byrne and Alex Rathgeber), have just opened the manor as a guesthouse. As the couple prepares to welcome their first guests, news has begun circulating of the murder of a local woman, Maureen Lyon, not far from the manor.
One by one, the guests of Monkswell Manor check in: the eccentric young architect, Christopher Wren (Laurence Boxhall); the chronic complainer, Mrs Boyle (Geraldine Turner); the genial Major Metcalf (Adam Murphy); and a mysterious young businesswoman, Miss Casewell (Charlotte Friels). And then, Mr Paravicini (Gerry Connolly) unexpectedly appears. He says his car has overturned in the snow, that the snow has blocked the roads and that the occupants of the guesthouse are now trapped. There’s something suspicious about Mr Paravacini, but the Ralstons have little choice but to accommodate him, too, for the evening.
The next day, Detective Sergeant Trotter (Tom Conroy) arrives at the Manor. He is investigating Maureen Lyon’s murder and needs to ascertain whether any of the guests (or their hosts) have any connection to the victim. Is the killer perhaps among this group, or may one of them be the next target?
It’s not long after Trotter commences his interrogations of the guests that an occupant does, in fact, become a victim of foul play. So, who is responsible? And is there a connection to the previous killing?
It’s fun to watch on as the murder mystery unfolds, and some surprisingly germane themes are woven into the text (though to say much more would potentially give too much away). Christie injects a good dose of humour into the writing, and the story moves at a steady pace. Under Nevin’s expert direction, this Australian staging of The Mousetrap is enjoyable and has no trouble engaging a contemporary audience.
A crucial part of that success is the cast. O’Byrne and Rathgeber are excellent as guesthouse owners Mollie and Giles, while Boxhall becomes a crowd favourite early on, showcasing some great comedic skills as the oddball Wren. Turner delivers as the disagreeable Mrs Boyle, while Murphy lends presence and integrity to his portrayal of Major Metcalf. Comedic stalwart Connolly is similarly an asset to this production, and Friels’s Miss Casewell is aptly reserved and slightly enigmatic. Completing the octet, Conroy completely convinces as Trotter, the staid detective astutely focused on the task at hand.
Christie’s work may now be 70 years old, but in the hands of Nevin and a superior cast, this Australian production of The Mousetrap offers a genuinely satiating night at the theatre. Be sure to catch the world-famous murder mystery as it makes its way across the country in the coming months.
The Mousetrap is now playing at Sydney’s Theatre Royal before seasons in Brisbane, Adelaide and Melbourne. For more information, including on how to buy tickets, head to https://themousetrap.com.au.
Photography: Brian Geach.