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Only mystery is how it's lasted for so long

There comes a point in Agatha Christie's lengthy murder mystery The Mousetrap where you wish the audience would begin interacting with Det Sgt Trotter. What might I say to the skiing policeman? "Oi, Trotter!" I'd yell. "It was Mr Paravicini! In the ballroom! With the candlestick!"

But then, that wouldn't make any sense, for Mrs Boyle – our homicidal maniac's second victim – was found on the couch, strangled to death in the time it takes for someone to turn the lights off and on again. Paravicini would be too obvious. Oh, and there's no ballroom at Monkswell Manor, the snowed-in guest house where she met her maker.

Here we have one of the original whodunits, and the world's longest-running play. Or, as I like to call it, Cluedo: On Stage. And it's an absolute bore. A once-celebrated piece of work that has been reduced to a tourist attraction in the West End, The Mousetrap is very good at sticking to tradition.

GASPING

It'll turn 61 this year, and yet, nothing has changed. A policeman shows up at Mollie and Giles Ralston's guest house to warn them of a killer on the loose, only to find that he/she is already staying at the Manor – simple. Five guests, two hosts, one guy with a notebook.

And yet, it goes on and on ... and on, complicating its premise with wordy exchanges, poor character portrayals and melodramatic outbursts. I blame the dialogue. And the acting. Both of which will leave you gasping for fresh air.

There may have been a time when The Mousetrap was associated with words like 'shock' and 'suspense'. Today, it's a dated, frighteningly dull piece of theatrical history that continues to rely on its so-called surprise ending for effect. The only surprise here is that this dusty old relic has managed to survive so long. HHIII

The Mousetrap runs until Saturday


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