Great genre performance
The Mousetrap opens with a BBC voice-over announcing that a body has been found in London and a man seen wearing a dark coat, pale scarf and soft felt hat.
Suspects arrive one by one at Monkswell Manor, a guesthouse 20 miles from London, all of them in this garb.
One of them is the murderer and only a select group of Melbournians know who that is.
Those in the know have travelled to London to view the play or been at the Comedy Theatre and have been sworn to secrecy.
The 70th anniversary of this longest-running murder mystery by Agatha Christie’s opened to a full house in Melbourne on February 21.
The play has never been made into a film, so it still has the freshness of a time capsule.
Director Robyn Nevin has stuck to the original in terms of stage set and casting, drawing on musical comedy talent.
There are several familiar Christie types such as Mr Paravicini, a continental gentleman similar to Hercule Poirot, whose car has overturned in a snow drift.
“I am the man of mystery,” he declares.
When a policeman arrives on skis, the phone is cut and a homicidal maniac is known to be in the vicinity, he says, “I know nothing about nothing.”
Gags such as these are part of the murder mystery patter as are disguises. One of the guests calls himself Christopher Wren after the architect who designed St Paul’s.
Actor Laurence Boxhall does a brilliantly wacky job as Christopher, conveying empathy and madness at the same time as he helps out innocent guesthouse manager, Molly Ralston.
The Ralstons have only just opened for business that day and Molly is always in a tizz. She, too, has a horrid past.
The play offers psychological insights into the period with Christopher’s queer persona both laughable and acceptable, suggesting to some commentators that Christie was ahead of her time.
The performance was fresh, the actors hit the right note and the emotional tugs were convincing.
The cast includes Anna O’Byrne and Alex Rathgeber, who have both won Helpmann awards for their performances in musicals.
Robyn Nevin, the director, chose to go with a musical cast, despite the fact there is only one song, because of the similarity of the genres which both offer escapism rather than commentary.
The Mousetrap, Comedy Theatre, until March 26.