'The Mousetrap' cast on Agatha Christie's impact on British drama

Sophie Thomas
Sophie Thomas

If you asked your friends and family to name a West End play, at least one person will probably mention The Mousetrap. The record-breaking West End hit is the world's longest-running production, with over 28,000 performances.

Agatha Christie's The Mousetrap premiered at London's Ambassadors Theatre in 1952, before moving over the road to the St Martin's Theatre in 1974. While there’s still a 1950s charm to The Mousetrap — set pieces and sound effects date back to the first performance in November 1952 — the Agatha Christie whodunnit remains relavent for a 2022 audience, a testament to Christie’s profound writing.

“In the week where everything was going wrong politically, there’s a moment where we say oh just the same old political thing,' and for that week it was brilliant, because everyone was so aware,” said George Naylor, who plays Christopher Wren.

The Mousetrap may seem “traditional” compared to newer West End openings, but it’s still got a spark. New cast members join the show every six months and bring new energy to the criminal thriller. We chatted with cast members Naylor, Pamela Hardman (Mrs. Boyle), and Daniel Solbe (Detective Sergeant Trotter) about being a part of The Mousetrap's legacy, keeping the play’s secrets, and how Agatha Christie influenced crime dramas today.

The Mousetrap is at St. Martin’s Theatre.

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What made you want to star in The Mousetrap?

George Naylor (Christopher Wren): I was touring with it two years ago before [the pandemic shut theatres]. We were about four or five weeks in when everything got pulled. So we were just getting started on it. And it was really just luck that drew me into that.

I was so desperate to come back. Because naively, I kind of judged the play as there's not much to it. But after doing it on tour for five weeks, I was still making notes because there was so much in the text.

Agatha [Christie’s] characters are so in depth, there's so much to discover. So I was desperate to come back and keep working it and kind of finish the job, but also finalise my version of Christopher Wren.

Pamela Hardman (Mrs Boyle): About 30 years ago, I toured Germany and German-speaking Switzerland, playing Miss Casewell in The Mousetrap in English. I loved it! I'd known some people who've been in it over the years and seen it. I really wanted to play Mrs. Boyle because she's a wonderful character. I mean, she can look as though she's one- or two-dimensional, but of course there is much more to her as there is to everybody.

I also love Aggie. I think she's amazing with a great mind. To still be third in the world after the Bible and Shakespeare as the best selling author. That’s quite something!

Daniel Solbe (Sergeant Trotter): It's so notorious! When I told people I got the job, it was like “oh, The Mousetrap, that's the longest-running show,” like everyone's heard of it. It was just fantastic to be in a production that like everyone knew from your 12-year-old cousin to your girlfriend's auntie.

It’s the credibility. It’s The Mousetrap. It feels important to theatre that you've had a role in it. You’ve had a chance to show what you can do with the character. That's really cool.

Do you get asked about the ending of The Mousetrap?

Pamela: The thing I've been asked is: have they changed the ending? Why would they! Or, is there more than one ending?

George: I’ve never been asked. I think people respect the show and they’re not gonna ask. It’s not the main selling point, but that's part of The Mousetrap.

Daniel: I've had relatives say “Oh, I saw that years ago, I can't remember who did it. But I do remember at the end they told us we can't tell anyone.” I feel like that's almost like the whole play and what people are taking away after like years. The [main] reason it's been going for so long is because you don't know the end.

Do you have a favourite memory from being in The Mousetrap?

Daniel: The best moments are the ones that go wrong. It’s seeing how the cast bring themselves back to the show. Like if someone messes up a line or someone comes in at a wrong entrance or forgets to come in at an entrance, it's almost watching how everyone almost sparks alive and it becomes real.

Pamela: It’s always Dan who gets it back on track!

George: I’m notorious for taking it off the track. But I think it was about three weeks in and there was just something in the air and everybody was just so on form. I remember through the first half, and then the second half I thought, "Oh my god everyone’s really good!"

We had such a good response. I think we had a standing ovation that night. That was something special. We’d had a rehearsal process and a few weeks of us settling into it. It felt like we'd arrived.

Daniel: When the audience click with you like that, it feels like it's in unison, like the show and the audience are really in one. Yeah, you can tell.

Why do you think The Mousetrap has been playing for so long?

George: The writing is brilliant. Everyone can see a part of themselves in all of the characters. Like it's been quite nice for me because I get a lot of queer people reaching out to me going, "Oh my goodness, I never thought I'd see somebody like that in a 1950s play."

It’s just pure escapism as well. Yeah, it's tense, but it's also funny. Yeah. And it's almost like a puzzle of brain teaser.

Pamela: I think the British, particularly, have an obsession with police dramas. We love them all. I think it is such an institution. People say “oh, we’ll go and see The Mousetrap”, then they come and they don't realise how good it is! They get very involved in it and they get very excited. So I think that and then word of mouth. People say you must go and see it.

Daniel: The longevity of the play has to come down to the writing. The first act especially — it's funnier than you think. I think people come in and almost underplay it. They’ll say “Oh, it’s an old show, it’s 1950s, Agatha Christie.” Then they come in and it's relevantly funny.

By the time you've laughed and you've relaxed and you're enjoying it, then it gets intense. And then maybe there's a murder and it really grips you in and I think that's it.

If there were Agatha Christle-style shows on television, what would they be about?

George: There kind of already is! You think of all the remakes of her work, but then you get the kind of serial killer documentaries on Netflix. They’re from real life but the stories are lending from that genre. She had such an impact.

Pamela: There’s “Three Ladies” for example, who investigate alongside the police. Agatha Christie sparked a whole genre, from that Midsomer Murders all the way down. It's all really based on Aggie, I think, in many ways.

Daniel: I think if Agatha wrote a piece now, I would want her to stick to this era. If The Mousetrap happened today in modern BBC dramas, you’d get your mobile phone out and you wouldn’t talk to each other. It just wouldn't be the same. If she was here, I would hope that she would stick to the era and she would write her style exactly the same.

George: It’d be a lot darker if Agatha Christie stories were contemporary. You’d knock the pylons down, the wifi would be gone. It’d almost be like an episode of Black Mirror!

Why should people see The Mousetrap?

George: It's such a solid piece of theatre. I think in terms of looking across the West End, I don't think anything has the reputation that this show does, in terms of you're guaranteed a good show, you're guaranteed something that will make you laugh that will hold you on the edge of you'll see them make you think here as well. No other show can guarantee that.

We had a woman outside the stage door who said “You’ve been here for 70 years, you look great!” And we were like “No?! It’s been open for 70 years. We haven’t been here for 70 years. We don’t live here for years after!"

Daniel: Also, the West End is full of musicals. I'm not a musical person. It's really good entertainment for people that aren't into classic musicals.

I wish the West End had more plays, and for longer turns as well! The Mousetrap is that reliable play you can count on.

The Mousetrap is at St. Martin’s Theatre. Book The Mousetrap tickets on London Theatre.

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Originally published on

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