HAVING been a theatre critic for the best part of 30 years - I started very young - there are few plays and shows I’ve yet to see.
But this Agatha Christie classic was one of them and I relished the chance to play detective for the night. Oh and yes, I did work out who the killer is, but, at the end of an enthralling and entertaining evening, we’re invited not to inadvertently reveal the murderer’s identity to anyone who hasn’t seen it yet.
Doubtless Gwyneth Strong, the ex Only Fools and Horses star, was the biggest draw in terms of the actors. But you’ll instantly forget the likeable lass Cassandra, the gormless Rodney’s wife in the classic sitcom, for in this she plays the serial moaner Mrs Boyle and very convincingly, too.
A group of toffs assemble in a large, rambling guest house, all oak panelling and heavy, velvet curtains. There’s a blizzard blowing outside but the bad weather rapidly becomes the least of their worries as several of these strangers are implicated in a rather disturbing case.
Most of the tension comes in act two, with the majority of the first half being light rather than dark. Geoff Arnold excels as the delightfully old school copper, Sgt Trotter. We, the audience, find ourselves becoming very nervous when a character disappears temporarily or a light is dimmed.
A tribute then, to director Gareth Armstrong and a tight knit cast that perfectly captures the spirit of Christie. This is a play, however, that would work just as well on radio, letting the listener’s imagination run riot.
Perfectly paced, The Mousetrap feels surprisingly fresh, even if the “jolly hockey sticks” England in which it is set vanished a long time ago.
Until May 18. The box office is on 0843 208 6000. Star rating - ***