There’s a real nostalgia which will envelop you when you sit down to watch The Mousetrap, which will play Theatre Royal Brighton from Monday to Saturday, July 1-6.
The scene is set when a group of people, gathered in a country house cut off by the snow discover, to their horror, that there is a murderer in their midst. One by one, the suspicious characters reveal their sordid pasts until at the last, nerve-shredding moment identity and motive are finally discovered.
These days, everyone would have been straight onto Facebook and phoning anyone and everyone for help. And maybe that’s part of the attraction of The Mousetrap now. The characters really are truly trapped.
Gwyneth Strong, who is playing the bad-tempered, cantankerous Mrs Boyle, admits it felt thoroughly weird when she dropped her phone off for repair the other day: “You think ‘How can you cope without it!’ So maybe there is that nostalgia with The Mousetrap. But I don’t know if I can put my finger on why the play has been so huge.”
The show has been delighting audiences in the West End for 67 years. Following a record-breaking 60th anniversary debut tour in 2012, it has been back on the road since January.
“I think it is partly because Agatha Christie created such wonderful characters that all come together, and I think it is also just that people love trying to solve something. I think the show has also got its own momentum. Every time it is recast, something new is brought to the show, though obviously still staying within the guidelines of the original. But it gives it new life again.
“I have done a lot of theatre, and this has got a really unique atmosphere.
“I got an email from my agent asking if I would like to do it,” says Gwyneth, who remains probably best known as Cassandra in Only Fools and Horses. “And that’s the lovely thing about my job. People will ask you what you want to do next, but you never know what is coming up next. I simply say ‘I don’t know’, and sometimes there won’t be anything… and I think that is all part of it. You have got to trust that you still want to play this game. I have doubted… many, many times. I took a break from theatre when I had my children. I was away from the theatre for nine years, and then I came back and did Three Sisters – and it was terrifying. I said I wouldn’t ever want to go nine years away from it again, and I haven’t.
“But there is always a particular terror about the theatre. It is not the same with television. You can do it again and again and again if you need to, but the theatre is so exposing. But the reward is being in front of a live audience and having that great shared experience with them. But for me, it is always about being able to do different things and to have the contrasts between them, being able to work in the different formats. And with the theatre, you obviously get the bigger theatres and the smaller theatres, and then the audiences change too wherever you where. Some audiences can be warmer. It is never wildly different, but audiences do vary.”
The cast also includes David Alcock (Mr Paravicini), Geoff Arnold (Detective Sgt. Trotter), Nick Biadon (Giles Ralston), Lewis Chandler (Christopher Wren), John Griffiths (Major Metcalf), Harriett Hare (Mollie Ralston) and Saskia Vaigncourt-Strallen (Miss Casewell).
First seen in Nottingham in 1952 starring Richard Attenborough and his wife Sheila Sim, The Mousetrap has gone on to become the world’s longest running stage production following its West End transfer to The Ambassadors in 1952 and St Martins in 1973 where it has played ever since, continuing a record-breaking run with over 27,500 performances in London so far.