There really is no better way to start a run of five plays in five weeks than the quintessential murder mystery, Agatha Christie’s The Mousetrap.
You may (or may not) know that, at the end of each performance, the audience takes an oath not to reveal ‘whodunnit’. I have seen the play a few times now (once at St Martin’s in London’s Theatreland in 2002, and more recently in 2015 & 2016 in it’s touring version) and continue to keep my promise. So, if one is obliged to keep shtum, this is going to be a short blog post, I hear you say? Well, yes. But as it’s ‘Fantastic February’ – a spectacularly crazy month – it would be wrong not to pen just a few words to mark the visit.
Tonight, I saw the play for the fourth time – and second time at Guildford’s Yvonne Arnaud Theatre – on a snowy Friday night. Given that the protagonists all come together at a country house and get snowed in – it seemed a very appropriate play to see in such weather conditions – even if I did feel like I needed ice skates to navigate the icy pavements to get to the theatre (where was Matt Evers when I needed him with his steadying hand on my ass?)
The ‘star’ of the show, not necessarily the lead, but the actor of whom there was the greatest probability that the audience had heard, was Gwyneth Strong – she of Only Fools and Horses fame, who played grumpy Mrs Boyle. However, I dare say the crowd favourite was Lewis Chandler as the eccentric Christopher Wren. Although the tipping of my hat is reserved for Geoff Arnold, the best Sgt. Trotter I have seen to date! I’m sure his portrayal was every bit as compelling as that of Sir Richard Attenborough, the first man to have played this role when the play opened sixty-seven years ago.
The Agatha Christie-Guildford connection… In December 1926, Agatha Christie disappeared for 11 days, sparking a national manhunt involving more than a thousand policemen and, for the first time, aeroplanes used in a search for a missing person. The police quickly found her car, abandoned near the mysterious ‘Silent Pool’ outside Guildford, but no sign of the famous writer, or that she had been involved in an accident. Speculation and gossip gathered apace, with theories ranging from it being a promotional stunt to her having been murdered by her philandering husband. Fellow authors, Dorothy L Sayers and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle even got involved, the latter obtaining one of her gloves to be used by a medium to employ the powers of the occult in an attempt to locate her. She was eventually found in Harrogate, eleven days later, suffering suspected amnesia as a result of the car crash. She never spoke of those missing eleven days – although many theories continue to be proposed to this day on the reasons for her disappearance. It is the queen of conundrum’s ultimate mystery, never to be solved! The Mousetrap is on UK tour until October. See it if you can.