Review: The Mousetrap, Grand Opera House, York

Louise Jameson leads the cast of The Mousetrap
23 Feb 2016 @ 9.14 pm
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The Mousetrap

Till Sat Feb 27 @ 7.30pm; 2.30pm matinees Weds & Sat

£16.40 – £37.40

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A remote country house, cut off by snow. A group of strangers. And a murder…

Agatha Christie was not the only crime novelist to use this now well-worn theme, but she was certainly the most famous – and The Mousetrap is her best-known example.

It tells the story of Giles and Mollie Ralston, married only a year, who have recently inherited the rambling Monkswell Manor. Rather than selling it, they have decided to open it as a guest house.

We join them just as their very first guests arrive – and the radio warns of a murderer on the run.

The Mousetrap is, of course, a theatrical phenomenon. It was first performed in London in November 1952. Christie herself gave it eight months.

It has now been running continuously in the West End for over 63 years, and toured the rest of the country for the first time in 2012.

Still oddly relevant

Lewis Collier, Gregory Cox and Amy Dowham. Photograph: Liza Maria Dawson
Lewis Collier, Gregory Cox and Amy Dowham. Photograph: Liza Maria Dawson

It may be Christie’s best-known work, and yet it doesn’t feature any of her famous characters. Yes, there is an elderly woman, but she is far too stuffy and rigid in her thinking to be Jane Marple.

There is an eccentric foreigner, and a retired Army officer – but they are no Poirot and Hastings.

Most of Christie’s works could not be updated to a 21st century setting. Changes in society and the law would render her characters’ motives incomprehensible, and forensic science would solve the crime far faster than Poirot’s little grey cells.

We enjoy them for what they are – period pieces, portraying a world as far removed from our lives now as that of the Tudors or the Vikings.

The Mousetrap, however, stays oddly relevant. The real crime at the centre of the story is not the murder, but historical child abuse, something with which we are still dealing today.

The cast performs with enormous energy and skill, and are extremely good at bringing out the unexpected humour in the play.

Louise Jameson’s portrayal of the rather hidebound Mrs Boyle is pitch perfect, and Gregory Cox positively revels in his role as the playful Mr Paravicini.

Anna Andresen’s Mollie Ralston moves effortlessly from the superficial newly-wed of the beginning of the play to something much deeper and more complex. She also produces the most wonderfully blood-curdling, full-throated scream!

Here’s a clue

Lewis Collier as Sgt Trotter
Lewis Collier as Sgt Trotter
As you would expect from a London touring production, the cast’s performances are exemplary, and the set and lighting are very impressive.

Monkswell Manor boasts beautiful wood panelling, stone walls, plaster decorations and stained glass, and looks remarkably solid. Certainly the doors close with a satisfying thump.

As is traditional, a member of the cast stepped forward at the curtain call and spoke to the audience, asking us not to reveal the name of the murderer.

Of course, I could not dream of breaking such a long-standing theatrical pact – but I will give you one piece of advice. It is absolutely vital to unmasking the murderer, and yet it contains no spoilers at all. In fact, it’s a very useful piece of advice in general.

Accessibility: As always, the front of house staff were very friendly and helpful with my wheelchair. Level access is partway down King Street, but the box office staff need to be alerted when you arrive, so that they can unlock the door. The accessible toilet next to this door is not overly generous in size, but is well-equipped and very clean. There is always an usher nearby if you need help.

The pavement on King Street has now been improved, which makes the journey to and from the level access door a little less bumpy and problematic. If you have a Blue Badge, however, I would recommend parking on King Street itself.

Until we have proof, all we know of people is what they tell us themselves. But are they always telling the truth – and should we believe them? Happy sleuthing…