The Mousetrap Review | The Opera House | Manchester
Now in its 70th anniversary year, Agatha Christie’s timeless tale is back at the Opera House to play out a satisfying whodunnit, full of eccentric characters, witty dialogue and outrageous plot twists.
Audiences are snowed in at the Monkswell Manor alongside the guesthouses two owners and five guests. As we are drip-fed facts surrounding the suspicious death of Maureen Lyon through radio broadcasts, audiences are asked to don their monocle and twirl their Poirot moustache as we all play detective to the crime afoot.
After serving a short sentence in prison for mistreating her three foster children, Maureen was subsequently strangled on the day of her release. Audiences are asked to decipher who and why this crime was committed as the queen of murder mysteries welcomes you to solve the caper alongside the detective Sgt. Trotter. But once you have, be sure to keep it to yourself as this deceptively simple story has been misdirecting audiences since it first opened in the West End in 1952. The world record-breaking play was originally commissioned by the BBC as a radio short story and its staging remains a strangely stalled production that builds its tension through rapid-fire conversations and its sublime production design. Framing the stage in the lobby of the manor, Ian Talbot and Denise Silvey’s direction plays with a staircase and multiple mysterious doors that blind the audience with numerous unknown obscurities taking place off stage.
Subverting expectations, Christie’s skilful writing ensures that this conventional show retains its influence despite multiple viewings. Alongside the anticipation of solving a bona fide whodunnit, the live production is a powerful piece of eye candy, from its rich costumes and props to its statuesque cast who often sit in scenes set out like a charming family portrait. However, behind the glamour of each guest is a guarded, darker past and each cast member offers a memorable and absorbing performance.
The show’s distinct and eccentric characters give the production serious dimensions, changing the tone through suspenseful, hilarious and quieter members amongst the group of strangers. The diverse personalities range from the quintessentially English Mrs Boyle (Gwyneth Strong) to the thick Italian accented foreigner Mr Paravicini (John Altman). But all the ensemble cast deliver the goods, with wonderful performances that swiftly shift your perspective with their surprising delivery and subtle glances.
The Mousetrap is the show that keeps on giving, with each new ensemble cast offering the classic an additional boost of energy. Regaling the audience with their sordid tale of murder most foul, the show's combination of opulence and comedy, alongside its voyeuristic murder mystery makes it easy to see how Agatha Christie’s tale continues to last the test of time.