Whodunit? Youdunit?

phil mitchell

Tweeting my visit to the Theatre Royal Brighton, my excitement suddenly turned into confused fear. My fellow bloggers’ replies led me down a dark and dangerous path hill – Queens Road – and I entered the theatre, blaming myself for a crime I didn’t even commit. Squeaking with anticipation, I was trapped in my beloved creaky chair to see…

Agatha Christie’s The Mousetrap is the classic whodunit murder mystery *points finger at you*.  For the audience member, the trick is to trust no one, not even the handsome lad, defenceless shaky granny or babbling wife. It’s the perfect blame game. Characters are all lovey dovey, oodles of love and heaps of good wishes and then BAM…MURDER SHE WROTE. Like a greyhound, suspicion flies around the stage into darkness whilst a body lies upon the floor.

Theatre Royal Brighton is an Aladdin’s cave for amazing set designs. Every show I’ve seen (okay…slight exaggeration…Rebecca and Constellations), I know I’m in for a sweet pre-show treat. I’m always amazed how set designs can often speak louder than the cast themselves. The Mousetrap‘s Monkswell Manor was a pretty impressive guest house with its spiral staircases and long corridors. Although I did cringe at the over exaggerated wooden décor, but it rang true to the time period.  With the slamming of doors, a toasty fireplace and grandmother’s mismatched armchairs, The Mousetrap increased my expectations of a jolly good show.

Anna Andresen Mollie Ralston
Anna Andresen (Mollie Ralston)

Wishing Phillip Schofield was here to present his “All Star Mr and Mrs”, Mr and Mrs Ralston were the showmakers, oiling the clogs of this 1952 play. Giles Ralston (Nick Barclay) and Mollie Ralston (Anna Andresen) had plenty of lovers’ flirts and tiffs within the space of two hours. There was a slight cheese fest as they exchanged anniversary gifts to kill the mood of a highly intense debate. With no Tinder or Facebook to blame for their wandering eyes, their evidence relied upon these two exhibits: a London newspaper and bus ticket…oh the good old days! Their nervous and determined orbits around Monkswell Manor captured this raging sense of “somebody’s going to get murdered” as they welcome their first paying guests.

The guests came in all shapes, sizes and ages. Mrs Boyle (Louise Jameson) is the woman who lives in her cardigan, complains about everything and picks on the vulnerable youngsters. Major Metcalf (Tony Boncza) is the man with authority, the stiff upper lip kind and knocks some sense into characters simply by standing straight with his hands behind his back. Miss Casewell (Amy Downham) was a go girl fighter, unashamed of her mixed masculine and feminine traits. Her emotions did indeed crack, but I felt she had the most backstory to deliver. Sergeant Trotter (Lewis Collier) brought some fresh uptown funk into the suspect gang. He seemed to be plucked from 2016 and time travelled to investigate this living Cluedo game. Mr Paravicini (Gregory Cox) simply reminded me of Count Dracula, but with a dodgy accent which annoyingly slipped at times. Enjoying his dark sense of humour, he was constantly framing and questioning himself. Finally, Christopher Wren (Oliver Gully)…what a delightful ball of energy and his stage presence was wonderfully infectious.

Lewis Collier (Sgt Trotter) and Anna Andresen (Mollie Ralston) in the 60th Anniversary Tour of Ag
Lewis Collier (Sgt Trotter) and Anna Andresen (Mollie Ralston)

The Mousetrap is a stubborn old ox though. Sixty-four years later, I’m unsure whether the play needs a bit of Botox, a zimmer frame or Freedom bus pass for its retirement ride. Stealing this quote “much as it pains me, I really must congratulate you” from Noel Coward to Agatha Christie, I applaud The Mousetrap‘s long running success, but it refuses to budge on its cheesy clichés, stereotypical slurs and pastime humour. The theme of young versus old seemed to ground the storyline, predicting the oh I saw that one coming for one particular character. Looking around the Theatre Royal Brighton audience, the young versus old was a pretty accurate representation of my fellow audience members, but a positive one!

“It is 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”

Agatha Christie

Sensing Agatha Christie is looking over my shoulder, I will not reveal who the murderer was. Now where would be the fun in that? The Mousetrap was a spiffing show for a post-winter treat. Throughout the play, the mystery was slowly notched up and cranked the suspicion, guilt and revenge around Monkswell Manor. The murderer’s big reveal released my tiny gasp, but let’s say I’m hopeless at Cluedo….or am I?

helloemmakay

Book your tickets here to see The Mousetrap.

Big thanks to Theatre Royal Brighton and Sammi O’Neill from Theatre South East.

theatre south east blogger

This review was first posted on Theatre South East here and has been edited to suit the writing style of HelloEmmaKay.

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