Comedy Theatre, Melbourne – until 26 March 2023, then touring
Spiffingly produced and splendidly acted, Agatha Christie’s evergreen whodunit The Mousetrap keeps audiences ever in its thrall.
Commemorating the play’s 70thh anniversary, the current Australian tour of The Mousetrap is fortuitously timed to ride a crest of reawakened love for murder mysteries. From the boffo Knives Out franchise to breakout Disney+ hit Only Murders in the Building to newly minted retro charmer Poker Face, murder, it seems, is everywhere.
Opening their brand new country guesthouse, Giles and Mollie Ralston soon find themselves and their guests trapped by relentless snow with a madly motivated murderer on the scene. Mysteries mount up as simmering secrets come to light, and the murderer continues their mission to dispatch “three blind mice.”
Perfectly preserved in its post-war period setting, The Mousetrap sparkles anew under the delightfully deft direction of Robyn Nevin. Christie’s knowing winks to the traps and traditions of the genre bring welcome laughs before the mood turns more sombre, taking the audience breathlessly along with it. The combination of incisive writing, meticulous direction and focused performances combine for an authentically suspenseful experience mercifully free of anything camp or twee.
Under Nevin’s judicious direction, aspects of the seventy-year old text that are clearly sexist and even racist are played with such truth that the audience can only gasp in wonder at how times have changed. The effect is so much more powerful than the modern predilection for simply cutting anything that might be even moderately offensive. One other note about the quality of Nevin’s direction: diction is absolutely pristine.
On a recreation of the handsome original set, Isabel Hudson provides characterful costumes that have a comfortably cosy air. Lightning designer Trudy Dalgleish adds to the pleasant sense of warmth with wall sconces, lamps and a large glowing fireplace.
The Mousetrap boasts a strong ensemble cast, and yet the nature of the role of angst-torn landlady Mollie and the quality of the performance of Anna O’Byrne combine to provide a glowing central focus. An actress of considerable emotional intelligence, O’Byrne’s performance, particularly in act three, is the foundation of the success of this production, bringing a palpable sense of truth and heart to the unfolding drama.
In a welcome mainstage appearance, veteran actress Geraldine Turner does not shy from the rampant unpleasantness of retired judge Mrs Boyle. Styled with a moustache that appears to be an homage to Agatha Christie’s iconic detective Hercule Poirot, Gerry Connolly brings delightful personality to mysterious “foreigner” Mr Paravicini.
Laurence Boxhall delights as daffy lover of architecture, Christopher Wren. Charlotte Friels successfully wraps Miss Casewell in layers of intriguing mystery. Tom Conroy commands the investigation scenes with flair as Detective Sergeant Trotter. Adam Murphy lends solid support as kindly retired military man Major Metcalf.
With such an abundance of musical theatre stars on stage, it is no surprise to hear a lush vocal arrangement of classic nursery rhyme “Three Blind Mice” from the cast following the curtain call.
The scarcity of touring productions of plays makes this season of The Mousetrap even more of a treasure. Lovers of the murder mystery genre will find plenty to enjoy.
The Mousetrap plays at Comedy Theatre, Melbourne until 26 March 2023. For tickets, click here.
The Mousetrap plays at His Majesty’s Theatre, Perth in April 2023. For tickets, click here.
The Mousetrap plays at Canberra Theatre in May 2023, For tickets, click here.
The Mousetrap returns to Playhouse, Brisbane in May 2023, For tickets, click here.
The Mousetrap plays at Riverside Theatres, Parramatta in June 2023. For tickets, click here.
Man in Chair reviewed the 2012 Melbourne season of The Mousetrap.
Photos: Brian Geach