Review: The Mousetrap, The King’s Theatre

Karl Howman, Jemma Walker and Bruno Langley in The Mousetrap
Karl Howman, Jemma Walker and Bruno Langley in The Mousetrap
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With the exception of Shakespeare and, arguably, Dr Seuss, Wikipedia’s marginally reliable List of Best Selling Fiction Authors makes for depressing reading.

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There, in black and white, is confirmation that it’s not literary merit that captures the imagination, but a compelling narrative. Thus, Enid Blyton and Barbara Cartland find themselves rubbing shoulders with Tolstoy, Pushkin and even JK.

Sitting comfortably in the number two slot, with more than two billion book sales, is Agatha Christie.

So you have to look at The Mousetrap not only as a play, but in a wider cultural context. We, as a planet, are united by a good story and a decent whodunnit just about ticks the box for most of us.

No wonder The Mousetrap’s had an epic 60-year run on the West End. Even its Canadian sibling has become the longest running play in Canada.

The story is typical Christie. Written as a radio play to celebrate Queen Mary’s 80th birthday and later reworked for the stage, it has all of her hallmarks: a motley crew of assembled hotel guests with suspect pasts, a large country house, a couple of murders and a gleeful twist at the end.

The wood panelled set is a warm, comforting salve to the soul, like eating a bowl of Heinz tomato soup in your pyjamas. The cast comfortably cover all the bases, building tension expertly as the second act progresses, and utilising body language to keep the audience’s attention.

All rather familiar from stage and screen, the cast are competent, but none go out of their way to dazzle – this is very much an ensemble piece.

It may not have the same zing of other sexagenarian plays, like The Crucible or Look Back in Anger, but it obviously taps into our shared subconscious desire to right wrongs and punish the baddie.

Run ends November 3.