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The Mousetrap, - 70th Anniversary Tour, Chelmsford

Agatha Christie is perhaps our best-known murder mystery writer, having brought Miss Marple and Hercule Poirot to the masses through her books, however neither of these detectives appear in her long running play which is still playing at the St Martin’s Theatre London with over 29,000 performances there to date.

Celebrating 70 years The Mousetrap has been thrilling audiences with the Agatha Christie tale and this tour celebrates that and it’s wonderful news that it is visiting so many regional theatres and not just the big touring venues.

The play itself, is set inside Monkswell Manor Guest House, as it opens its doors to guests for the first time. Young couple and first-time hoteliers Mollie and Giles Ralston are not prepared for what will come about when they entertain seven guests who end up trapped inside the Guest House due to heavy snowfall. Yes, it has all the best bits of a “Who Dunnit?”

Mollie played by Rachel Dawson and Michael Lyle as Giles Ralston worked well as the young couple, struggling with their challenging guests as well as learning how well they actually know each other after just one year of marriage. I was a little disappointed given how accurate the costumes and props were to the period that Rachel’s hair style looked out of place and time. However, careful direction to highlight the dark coat, light scarf and soft felt hat as described as the costume of the London killer on the radio made sure the audience were questioning all the characters right from the start.

Shaun McCourt as Christopher Wren brought great energy and effervescence to the part, skipping and tripping about the stage bringing quirkiness and boyish bravado to the character. Catherine Shipton as Mrs Boyle by contrast was formidable and fearsome, she portrayed the stereotypical complaining house guest to a tee, finding fault in everything and checking for dust on all surfaces.

Todd Carty brought a strong and steady portrayal as Major Metcalf, and had all the ‘huff and puff’ of a British army major, this was a convincing performance, finding lots of the comedy moments and delivery them extremely well. His comic timing was excellent throughout without stealing any of the limelight.

Miss Casewell played by Leigh Lothian was calm, cool and collected and had strong stage presence as the aloof business women with a secret past and Garyn Williams as Det. Sgt. Trotter was a little ‘shouty’ and frenetic for me in places, which meant he lacked light and shade in his performance, I wasn’t entirely sure if this was a directorial emphasis relating to his character or not. I appreciate it was a difficult role, but I actually found it uncomfortable to watch him at times.

I also noted that throughout there was quite a lot of masking and poor sight lines, meaning we couldn’t always see who was saying what or perhaps what was going on. This may be the result of the tour moving to different venue and not knowing the theatres individually but it’s a shame as it did spoil the overall effect for me.

Steve Elliot as Mr Paravicini was a delight. He teased and played with the characters in the play like a cat with a mouse, it was just delicious to watch. He was light on his feet, with some wonderful facial expressions and lots of tongue in cheek humour. I loved everything about his performance.

This was a great evening’s entertainment, and we would recommend it to anyone looking for a night out in Chelmsford this week or indeed to catch it anywhere else on the anniversary tour.

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