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
Theatre Royal Windsor until 26th October then UK tour continues
Previously reviewed at this venue: