A murder mystery masterclass – The Mousetrap comes to The Regent Theatre

The Mousetrap is the world’s longest-running play, marking its 70th anniversary with a spectacular UK tour. Stopping off at Stoke-on-Trent’s Regent Theatre, Agatha Christie’s classic whodunnit is the genre-defining murder mystery – and a mystery it shall stay.

After writing the play, Christie gave the rights to her grandson Mathew Prichard as a birthday present – now, only one production of the play – in addition to the West End production – can be performed each year. 

Despite staging more than 30,000 performances since 1952, The Mousetrap remains one of the theatre world’s best kept secrets, with each and every audience member now a part of the plot, entrusted never to reveal the ending. 

Shrouded in secrecy, the mystery allows for millions more fans to enjoy the show as it was intended, so I will of course, abide by my solemn responsibility and keep this review suitably spoiler free.

A plush red curtain rises to reveal a William Morris armchair and matching sofa in the lounge of the wood panelled period property, Monkswell Manor – a newly opened remote guest house run by Mollie Raltson (Joelle Dyson) and her husband of a year, Giles Ralston, played by Laurence Pears.

Over the radio, a news report tells of a murder just 30 miles away in London, with the suspect having been seen wearing a dark overcoat, light scarf and soft felt hat – something eagle-eyed viewers may want to keep an eye out for.

One by one, guests arrive in from the blizzard that can be seen billowing past the tall leaded window, until a group of seven strangers find themselves snowed in at the countryside B&B. When a police sergeant arrives, the guests discover – to their horror – that a killer is in their midst, and so the proverbial game of Cluedo begins… Which one is the murderer? Who will be their next victim? And can you demonstrate your Netflix detective skills to solve the world-famous mystery for yourself?

There are eight members of the cast, which by 2012 had been played by more than 400 actors and actresses, including Richard Attenborough as the original Detective Sergeant Trotter.

The 70th anniversary tour stars none other than Todd Carty, known for his characters Mark Fowler in Eastenders and Grange Hill’s Tucker. Todd plays the disciplined and affable Major Metcalfe – a gentleman who seems all too keen to help his hosts cope with the consequences of the snowstorm. 

He’s joined by fellow EastEnders actress, Gwyneth Strong, as Mrs Boyle – perhaps better known for her role as Cassandra in Only Fools and Horses – a show which even parodied the play once or twice. Strong manages to shake off her much-loved character from the 90s sitcom, taking on the strong-willed and uncompromising role of the challenging retiree.

The remaining ensemble includes the flamboyant Christopher Wren (Elliot Clay), Essie Barrow as an aloof Miss Casewell, Mr Paravici performed by Kieran Brown and Joseph Reed, who plays Detective Sgt. Trotter.

But the question still remains – who is the murderer? What’s their motive? And who is next?

Everyone is a suspect and simultaneously, a potential victim, and as each character divulges the secrets of their past, you can practically hear the cogs as hundreds of brains tick over all at once in a desperate attempt to solve the crime before those around them. 

The eight-strong cast do a fantastic job of acting as shadily as they do innocently, shifting suspiciously in seats, avoiding questions, pointing fingers and reasoning alibis, though in true Agatha Christie style, nothing is ever as it seems – or is it?

While it is a story full of drama and dizzying plot twists, its laced with well-timed, timeless comedy. For me, it was as though Fawlty Towers met BBC’s The Traitors. In fact, I could certainly see parallels between the seaside sitcom and murder mystery play. An out-of-his-head hotel manager, an amiable retired old soldier, a demanding and difficult customer, every now and again, all the while trying to work out the faithfuls from the traitor.

With an unchanging set, the leg work to engage and captivate the audience was all on the actors, who did a wonderful job of opening up the manor house without ever actually getting to see it, allowing our imaginations to run wild, continuing to thread red string around our mental evidence boards to pinpoint the killer.

Steeped in suspicion and secrecy, The Mousetrap has remained unchanged since its very first staging, with viewers obliging to keep its legacy sacred – a testament to the respect held for the world’s best-selling author of all time. 

A murder mystery masterclass that’s not to be missed, The Mousetrap is on at The Regent Theatre this week until Saturday, April 8 – so now is your chance to become a part of the story and keep The Mousetrap secret locked in your own hearts.

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