Tag Archives: Gareth Armstrong

The Mousetrap


Theatre Royal Windsor & UK Tour

The Mousetrap

The Mousetrap

Theatre Royal Windsor

Reviewed – 21st October 2019



“part of a great and uniquely British theatrical tradition”


Dame Agatha Christie was seemingly mystified by the astonishing success of her ‘Mousetrap’ which has long been the world’s longest running play. After 67 years of continuous performances, this entertaining murder mystery with a surprise twist continues to fill seats at St Martin’s Theatre in London. Just one official tour is allowed and it is currently in residence at the Theatre Royal Windsor until 26 October before continuing its national tour to May 2020.

The story concerns a young couple who open their manor house in Berkshire to the public as a guest house for the first time one freezing, snow-bound night when communications are cut and anything, even murder, might happen… It’s hard to imagine a radical new take on the piece. Perhaps set it in an Airbnb in a New York loft? It would never work. Like the magnificently upholstered classic that it is, this show gently purrs along, faithfully mirroring both the look and sound of the popular period West End show. The opulent and baronial set is there, as are the period costumes and cut-glass accents together with all the assumptions and prejudices of the post-war period.

A cast of eight assume the roles of the guest house’s proprietors (Nick Biadon and Harriet Hare) and their five guests (Susan Penhaligion, David Alcock, Lewis Chandler, John Griffiths and Saskia Vaigncourt-Strallen). Geoff Arnold is Sergeant Trotter. On the night I saw it, Susan Penhaligon (Upstairs Downstairs, Bergerac, Emmerdale) was indisposed and her role was confidently filled by her understudy, Judith Rae. She was nicely ratty as a crusty grande dame. Most of the guests are amusing character roles, with mannered performances that verge on caricature.

As the very camp Christopher Wren, Lewis Chandler had a laugh that seemed to be channelling Kenneth Williams, and made a big impact. David Alcock gave a nicely observed performance as a sinister Signor Paravicini, and there were other strong performances from Saskia Vaigncourt-Strallen and John Griffiths. Nick Biadon, Harriet Hare and Geoff Arnold give assured performances in their respective roles.

Dame Agatha herself said ‘it’s the kind of play you could take anyone to. It’s not really frightening. It’s not really horrible. It’s not really a farce, but it has a little bit of all these things and perhaps that satisfies a lot of different people’. Agatha Christie gave the rights to this most successful of plays to her grandson. In the spirit of giving back to the theatre world, Mousetrap Theatre Projects, the industry’s leading educational charity, is run by the current owner of the play’s rights.

This really is a play that keeps on giving. It offers a good night out and is part of a great and uniquely British theatrical tradition.


Reviewed by David Woodward

Photography by Johan Persson


The Mousetrap

Theatre Royal Windsor until 26th October then UK tour continues


Previously reviewed at this venue:
The Trials Of Oscar Wilde | ★★★★ | March 2019
Octopus Soup! | ★★½ | April 2019


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Sand in the Sandwiches

Jonathan Church, Oliver Mackwood & Oxford Playhouse present




Fresh from a sell-out 2016 UK Tour, Edward Fox is to return to the West End in the celebrated one-man play exploring the life and work of John Betjeman, Sand in the Sandwiches, for a strictly limited London run. A journey through memory and verse, the play collates the work of the twentieth century’s most treasured poet. Written by Hugh Whitemore and directed by Gareth Armstrong, it will visit Northampton before its London premiere at Theatre Royal Haymarket between May 30th and June 3rd 2017, followed by an extended UK tour visiting Cambridge, Malvern, Woking, Brighton and Bath.

Edward Fox said

“It is lovely to be returning to one of the great theatres of the world and to the role of John Betjeman, even now at the age of 80. All of us involved are working to magnify the voice of one of the greatest minds in England. Betjeman once said that ‘poetry is life’, and I agree. You can’t live without it.”

John Betjeman was the nation’s favourite poet. Sand in the Sandwiches celebrates a man famous not only for light verse and laughter, but for his passions, his sense of purpose and his unforgettable poetry. Through boyhood, his adolescence, to life as Britain’s Poet Laureate, Sand in the Sandwiches presents a hugely entertaining insight into the world of this much-loved irreverent writer. Triple BAFTA winner Edward Fox (OBE) stars in this new one-man play, bringing Betjeman’s poetry and vivacious personality to life.

Edward Fox’s distinguished career counts iconic British films including the Oscar winning Ghandi, The Day of the Jackal, A Bridge Too Far, Oh! What a Lovely War, The Dresser, The Go-Between, A Doll’s House, Pride and Prejudice, Robin Hood, Nicholas Nickleby, Force 10 from Navarone and James Bond’s Never Say Never Again. His stage credits include: The Audience, Four Quartets, Hamlet, An Evening with Anthony Trollope, Letter of Resignation and many more. His film credits have won him three BAFTA Awards and in 2003 he was made an Officer of the Order of the British Empire for his contribution to stage and cinema.

Hugh Whitemore, a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature, is an award-winning writer whose work spans stage and screen. Theatre credits include: As you Desire Me, Stevie, Pack of Lies (which won Judi Dench the Olivier Award for Best Female Actor), The Best of Friends, Breaking the Code, God Only Knows, Disposing of the Body, The Last Cigarette playing at acclaimed theatre across the UK and internationally. His films credits include: Jane Eyre (1996), 84 Charing Cross Road, Stevie, The Return of the Soldier, Bluebird, Man at the Top, and All Neat in Black Stockings. With over 70 television credits, Whitemore has written for broadcasters in both the UK and USA, winning two Writers Guild of Great Britain Awards and two Emmy Awards.

Director Gareth Armstrong specialises in solo performance and has helped to create a dozen such theatre pieces, including Hugh Whitemore’s My Darling Clemmie starring Rohan McCulloch as Winston Churchill’s wife, and his own dramatisation of Oscar Wilde’s De Profundis, called Wilde Without the Boy. As an Associate Artist at Salisbury Playhouse under the Directorship of Jonathan Church, he premiered his own one-man show, Shylock. The play toured for over a decade to more than forty countries and has been translated and performed in Spanish, Italian, Romanian, Hungarian and Mandarin Chinese. Armstrong also co-founded The Made in Wales Theatre Company to premiere new plays and was Artistic Director of Cardiff’s Sherman Theatre.

Sand in the Sandwiches will play at Theatre Royal Haymarket between Tuesday May 30th and Saturday June 3rd. This week is available at the theatre due to a pre-contractual, prior engagement, which means that Damian Lewis is unavailable to perform in Edward Albee’s The Goat, or Who Is Sylvia? The producers took the decision to suspend the run of The Goat, or Who Is Sylvia? for that week. The Goat, or Who Is Sylvia? will recommence performances on 5th June.

Sand in the Sandwiches by Hugh Whitemore is directed by Gareth Armstrong with designs by BAFTA award-winning Fotini Dimou, lighting by double Olivier award-winning Howard Harrison and sound by Olivier award & Ivor Novello award nominated composer Simon Slater. Sand in the Sandwiches is produced by Jonathan Church, Oliver Mackwood Productions and Oxford Playhouse.


Sand in the Sandwiches

Tuesday 30 May – Saturday 3 June

Eves: 7.30pm, Mats: Thurs & Sat 2.30pm

Theatre Royal Haymarket,

Haymarket, London, SW1Y 4HT

Box Office

020 7930 8800

Theatre Royal Online – Click Here

Tickets from £15 – On Sale Now



UK TOUR 2017

NORTHAMPTON Royal & Derngate
Thursday 25 – Saturday 27 May
Eves: 7.45pm, Mat: Thur & Sat 2.30pm
Box Office 01604 624811


CAMBRIDGE Arts Theatre
Tuesday 6 – Saturday 10 June
Eves: 7.30pm, Mats: Wed & Sat 2.30pm
Box Office 01223 503333


MALVERN Theatres
Tuesday 13 – Thursday 15 June
Eves: 7.30pm, Mats: Thur 2.30pm
Box Office 01684 892 277


WOKING New Victoria Theatre
Friday 16 – Saturday 17 June
Eves: 7.30pm, Mats: Sat 2.30pm
Box Office 0844 871 7645*
*Calls cost 7p per minute, plus your phone company’s access charge.


BRIGHTON Theatre Royal
Tuesday 27 June – Saturday 1 July
Eves: 7.45pm, Mats: Wed & Sat 2.30pm
Box Office 0844 871 7650*
*Calls cost 7p per minute, plus your phone company’s access charge.


BATH Theatre Royal
Tuesday 11 July – Saturday 15 July
Eves: Tue & Wed 7.30pm / Thur, Fri & Sat 8pm, Mats: Wed & Sat 2.30pm
Box Office 01225 448815