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Review: Masterful Mousetrap snares audience at Colchester Mercury

PUBLISHED: 12:53 19 February 2019

The cast of Agatha Christie's The Mousetrap at Colchester Mercury. One of you is a killer! Photo: Johann Persson

The cast of Agatha Christie's The Mousetrap at Colchester Mercury. One of you is a killer! Photo: Johann Persson

Johan Persson

The Mousetrap, by Agatha Christie, Mercury Theatre, Colchester, until February 23

Harriett Hare as guest house owner Mollie Ralston in The Mousetrap at Colchester Mercury Photo: Johann PerssonHarriett Hare as guest house owner Mollie Ralston in The Mousetrap at Colchester Mercury Photo: Johann Persson

The Mousetrap is a theatrical legend. The play opened in London in 1952 with Richard Attenborough in the lead and has been running non-stop ever since. What started as a thriller which held up a mirror to upper class society now works as a surprisingly pertinent piece of social history.

We get talk of ration books, cold winters and alarming tales of child abuse in rural farms. Behind the tweedy fashions and hearty banter, there is usually some unsettling darkness in Christie’s worlds.

The Mousetrap demonstrates the techniques which make Christie great, she introduces us to a group of characters and then strands them in a confined space – in this case an isolated guest house – then has one of them turn out to be a murderer.

Gwyneth Strong as Mrs Boyle in The Mousetrap at Colchester Mercury Photo: Johann PerssonGwyneth Strong as Mrs Boyle in The Mousetrap at Colchester Mercury Photo: Johann Persson

This current production works because it conjures up an accurate portrait of the time and the actors manage to create believable people rather than crudely drawn stereotypes with clipped accents.

Gwyneth Strong, Cassandra from TV’s Only Fools and Horses, plays the waspish Mrs Boyle and gets top billing but this is an ensemble show and there is strength in depth. Harriet Hare and Nick Biadon are particularly engaging as young guest house owners Mollie and Giles Ralston and Geoff Arnold makes Sergeant Trotter a more nuanced character than the usual cardboard cutout policemen you normally find in who-dunnits of this era.

This is a carefully staged production which captures something of the times in which it is set. It is a period play but it also makes us realise that no matter how much the world changes – the more it stays the same.

The headlines in our papers and podcasts still tell pretty much the same stories as they did back in the 1950s which is why Agatha Christie still works just as well today.

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