Agatha Christie’s ‘The Mousetrap’, opened in the West End on the 25th November 1952, which means it has been running for over 50 years making it the world’s longest running play - an incredible achievement for any play and one that the producers are rightly proud of. In the course of the first 50 years, according to the programme notes, over 10 million people have seen the show and over 395 tons of ice cream have been sold!
So what is the show’s success? Part of it has to do with the fame of playwright Agatha Christie. In 1962 UNESCO announced that she was the most widely read British writer in the world, beating even Shakespeare, who came a miserable second. As the creator of such famous sleuths as Miss Jane Marple and the famous French, sorry Belgium, Detective Hercule Poirot, Agatha Christie is the most famous ‘whodunnit’ crime writer of all time. Who has not heard of “Death on the Nile” or “Murder on the Orient Express”?
Agatha Christie’s fame has surely played a part in this show’s success. In the 1950’s Christie’s books were regularly in the top sellers list. It was hardly surprising that a play, which has never been published or turned into a movie or tv programme, should attract avid fans. Since that initial enthusiasm the show has now become one of the essential things to do on many a tourists schedule - go to Buckingham Palace, visit the Tower of London and see ‘The Mousetrap’.
The play is your regular ‘who dun it’ mystery. Eight people are snowed in at a guest house: Mollie and Giles Ralston, the owners; four invited guests, each with eccentric characteristics; the unexpected guest, who turns up out of the blue after his car overturns in the snow storm; and finally a skiing detective. Once everyone has arrived it is not long before a murder takes place and the detective assembles all the guests together and interrogates them one by one. Each avoid the truth, some by silence and others by lies? Can the murderer be caught before more deaths happen?
The story, whilst sensational and full of silly coincidences, is actually quite good. The characters are, despite their histrionics, vivid and they interact amongst themselves with macabre amusement. There are enough false clues to keep you guessing and a few hidden ones that mean if you stay alert you will not be too surprised to discover that the murderer is ****. Just kidding! If you want the answer to that question then you will need to go and see this quintessentially English murder mystery for yourself.