The Arts

The Mousetrap

Theatre Royal Brighton, 15 – 20 April
Evenings 7.45pm Matinees Wed, Thurs, Sat 2.30pm

I should be interested in how many young people in the UK know what a mousetrap is and how many are able to work out the meaning of the title to the content of the play. For over 50 years The Mousetrap has been the world’s longest running stage production with almost 25,000 performances, and it has been seen by 10 million people.

The radio version, Three Blind Mice, was written for Queen Mary and re-dubbed The Mousetrap for its stage premiere November 25, 1952 when Winston Churchill was prime minister. Fans joke that the play actually dates back to Shakespeare’s day: in Hamlet an acting troupe puts on a show called “The Mouse-trap,” which the Danish prince declares “a knavish piece of work.”

Dame Agatha Christie created a suspenseful and intricate plot for this play, with murder lurking around every corner of a country house, cut off from the world by a snow storm. It was written and first performed in an era of thriving weekly repertory theatre, when theatre companies would rehearse next week’s show while performing the current production at the evening performance, with two matinees, Saturday pm and the other on the weekday when the local businesses and traders had half-day closing. Half-day closing is another tradition that, together with weekly rep theatre, no longer has a place in our world.

The Mousetrap
, over the years, has been treated as a joke by phoney intellectuals, of which I count myself one. A convoluted storyline, a corpse on stage throughout the first half, more suspicious characters than you can point a gun at, it has proved itself a great investment for the original Angels (financial backers). Ten years ago I was ashamed of my ignorant scoffing when I came out of the St Martin’s Theatre, London, having really enjoyed a matinee of this play. Mousetrap Productions has licensed 60 theatre productions of the play worldwide to mark its 60th year and, consequently, the world’s longest-running play will be seen with professional productions on every continent and in theatres from Venezuela to Korea and in most of the European countries. Suddenly, I want to be known as an aficionado of The Mousetrap and I am so proud that the Theatre Royal Brighton will present this play on its first-ever tour.

Sylvia Alexander-Vine

Categories: The Arts

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