Theatre review: The Mousetrap, Bord Gais Energy Theatre
"It's the sort of play you can 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."
So said Agatha Christie trying to account for the record-breaking longevity of her famous play.
She might have been on to something. This solidly entertaining 61st anniversary production exemplifies the show's broad and enduring appeal.
It may not be 'horrible or frightening', but Ian Watt-Smith's production is full of atmosphere. The set design is a superb facsimile of the Berkshire manor house, just turned into a guest house by Molly (Helen Clapp) and Giles Ralston (Henry Luxemburg), which is menaced by a vengeful, probably psychotic killer, determined to do to the inhabitants what the farmer's wife in the nursery rhyme did to the three blind mice.
Snow swirls outside the mullioned windows, marooning the Ralstons and their guests with the killer and Sergeant Trotter (Luke Jenkins), an aggressively inquisitorial sleuth.
Though the tone is light and humorous, tension and suspense mounts as each guest arrives at the manor, each dressed in a dark overcoat and black felt hat, just like the killer described in the police report. The most arresting newcomer is Christopher Wren (Stephen Yeo) an excessively friendly and forthright young man, so named by his parents in the hope he'd grow up to imitate the great architect of St Paul's Cathedral.
Yeo almost single-handedly creates the farcical element mentioned by Christie in a perfectly charming and appealing performance, not without its depth. Wren delights in winding up old fussbudget Mrs Boyle, excellently played by Anne Kavanagh, as does the mysterious Miss Casewell, played with great style and feeling by Charlotte Latham. Mr Paravacini, the equally mysterious, Italian is another source of humour, played with sardonic finesse by Michael Fenner.
Luxemburg is perfect as Giles, a more flexible 1950s version of the British stiff upper lip, while Luke Jenkins churns with unstoppable energy as Sergeant Trotter, the question-firing engine of the play.
Crisp, stylish and funny, Watt-Smith's production is also weighted with dramatic emotion thanks to Helen Clapp as Molly, tremendous in conveying the confusion and doubt Trotter sows in her mind toward Giles, and the protective feelings inspired by the troubled Christopher Wren.