The Mousetrap is a killer night out at the theatre

Hearing the gasps of shocked audience members around the ASB Waterfront Theatre as the killer is finally revealed demonstrates the impact The Mousetrap still has, even in 2019. Born on the West End in 1952, where it continues to run to this day, the few weeks the show will spend touring in New Zealand represents just tiny glimmer in the show’s illustrious history.

Written by the Queen of crime fiction, Agatha Christie, The Mousetrap is an ingenious production. In many ways, a very traditional murder mystery – a bunch of seemingly unconnected people with shady pasts all ending up in one place together – The Mousetrap overcomes any cliched hurdles by eliciting just enough laughs, thrills and twists to sustain its runtime. In fact, I couldn’t care less about predictability when the outcome is ultimately so unpredictable.

Set in post-War England, The Mousetrap opens with newly married couple Mollie and Giles Ralston celebrating the opening night of their guesthouse: Monkswell Manor. Soon, however, a collection of eclectic characters decide to spend the night in the residence. Firstly, there’s Christopher Wren – a peculiar, hyperactive man. Mrs Boyle, grumpy and overly critical woman. Next, Major Metcalf, a veteran and Miss Casewell. And finally, Mr Paravicini, an unannounced guest, who claims to be from Italy. Very quickly, it becomes clear that all is not what it may seem. And then, of course… Murder!

Despite its unoriginal premise, there’s nothing quite like The Mousetrap. When you think of murder mystery, you think of an aging, moustachioed detective on the TV. And while this show is very clearly aged – there’s nothing about this show that appears any different from how it would have premiered all those years ago – having all of the action take place just metres from you on a stage is far more thrilling.

A show like this relies on a strong cast. With such a small collection of characters, and no big musical numbers, costume changes or flashy sets to compensate, any weak link would hinder the story. Thankfully, everyone is strong. They all convey enough mystique and intrigue that it simply is impossible to suspect any single person; everyone could be (or might be) the killer. Particular stand-outs are Melissa Haiden as Mollie, and Matthew Lotter as Wren, whose scenes together are highlights. Mark Wynter and Malcolm Terrey manage to get many of the laughs from their high energy performances, and special mention should be given to Aiden Scott who makes his professional theatre debut as Detective Trotter.

The Mousetrap certainly doesn’t reinvent the wheel, but there’s no reason it should have to. It’s testament to the story that it can still sell out houses across the globe. While it might not appeal so much to those who are used to the fast-pace of modern theatre, to still have the same impact on an audience in 2019 as in 1952 shows the real power of good old-fashioned storytelling. The Mousetrap makes for a killer night out!

You can see The Mousetrap as Auckland’s ASB Waterfront Theatre until 14 April. Then the show heads to Christchurch’s Isaac Theatre Royal from 24 April and Wellington’s Opera House from 8 May.

Reviewed by Stewart Sowman-Lund.