JOYCE MCMILLAN on THE MOUSETRAP at the King’s Theatre, Edinburgh, for The Scotsman 1.11.14.
3 stars ***
WHODUNNIT? I’m not telling; it’s part of the tradition of Agatha Christie’s The Mousetrap, now 62 years old and counting, that audiences are sworn to secrecy, so that the show can go on thrilling audiences with its labyrinthine plot, and sharp final twist.
First staged in 2012, Ian Watt-Smith’s familiar touring production takes a delightfully direct and unironic approach to the drama. There’s a genuinely passionate central performance from Helen Clapp as lovely Mollie Ralston, the not-quite-so-young postwar newlywed trying, with the help of her ex-playboy husband, to make a go of a newly-launched hotel business in a snowbound house in the Home Counties; and if there’s one single reason for the roaring box-office success of this show – which packed the King’s in Edinburgh this week, with audiences young and old – it probably lies in that perfect, nostalgic 1950’s setting in the hall of an old mullioned manor-house, eloquently conjured up in this production’s classic wood-panelled set.
As always with Agatha Christie, of course, there are unsettling social undercurrents to the drama, slightly belied by the reassuring tidiness of the narrative structure; this story is really about the horrific abuse of three vulnerable children, somewhere in this English rural idyll, and the legacy of damage it leaves. The joy of Christie, though, is that she resolves her stories so neatly that we never need to give them a second thought, after leaving the theatre; except, perhaps, to wonder when The Mousetrap will be round again – and whether we will manage to forget whodunnit, so that we can enjoy the story, one more time.