November 22, 2011
I’ve always loved The Mousetrap. It’s so deliciously cheesy.
It may not be the most perfect Agatha Christie mystery — try Witness for the Prosecution for that — but it’s the one folks have been rushing to see in London’s West End for the past six decades.
It is, in fact, the longest continually running play in theatre history.
Well, now you don’t have to call Air Canada and book a flight to make your Christie pilgrimage.
Thanks to Village Theatre Waterdown, there’s a perfectly decent production of this classic whodunit close to home.
Director Andrew Finnigan knows the play intimately, having been in it several times, and he obviously loves it, not only for its chills but also for its cautious silliness.
His direction attempts a balance between the play’s sometimes overly cute humour and its more enticing moments of ice-cold thrills.
We’re in Monkswell Manor, a comfortable, if slightly seedy, English country house. Giles and Mollie Ralston, proprietors, are trying to keep a troublesome boiler going, vegetables cooking and their guests from being murdered in their beds.
A vicious snowstorm is raging outside, phone wires have been cut and when, the lights dim ominously, you just know there’s going to be a body on the sitting-room settee.
Christie plots well, providing plenty of her famous red herrings to keep you guessing. Audiences sit on the edge of their seats, hearts in their mouths, waiting for the next little mouse to get the chop.
Village Theatre’s mostly fine cast has a game go at Christie’s sometimes arch dialogue.
Elaine Hale is a likable Mollie, worrying about everything, trying to keep her recalcitrant guests happy and sometimes gazing suspiciously at husband Giles, who just might be a prime suspect.
Andy Dumas is a tad stiff as the handsome but gullible Giles and, like several other members of this cast, he makes little faces that telegraph action.
Julian Ford is a superb Detective Sergeant Trotter, displaying just the right amount of force mixed with persuasive charm.
In the eccentric characters department, George Sanford is plummy and perfect as duplicitous Paravicini, a man of mystery and exotic manners. Add Andrew Finnigan’s over-the-top Christopher Wren, an obvious audience favourite, and Dianne McEwan’s crusty old Mrs. Boyle, and you have a trio of delightful proportions.
Sandy Milne overdoes the crisp, boyish quality of sharp-tongued Miss Casewell and Ralph Woodcock doesn’t quite pass muster as starchy old Major Metcalf.
A nicely detailed period set (except for that glitzy wallpaper and glassless window) gives the play a lived-in feel. And Finnigan’s well-paced, neatly-devised direction makes this whole package loads of fun.
Whenever I’ve gone past St. Martin’s Theatre in London, where The Mousetrap has played for much of its run, I’ve always had the greatest desire to open the lobby doors and holler out who did it.
Don’t worry, I’ve curbed such recklessness here. Mum’s the word. If you want to know whodunit you’ll have to get over to Waterdown and spend a pleasant evening being entertained.
Gary Smith has written on theatre and dance for The Hamilton Spectator for more than 30 years.
Who: Village Theatre Waterdown
Where: Memorial Hall, 317 Dundas St E., Waterdown
When: Nov. 25-26, Dec. 2-3 at 8 p.m. Matinee Nov. 27 at 2 p.m.
History: Began life as a short radio play on May 30, 1947
Written For: Queen Mary, a woman who loved murder mysteries.
London Stage Opening: New Ambassadors Theatre, Nov. 25, 1952
London Run: 59 years this month
Original Stars: Richard Attenborough and Sheila Sim
Mousetrap Film: Cannot be made until six months after the play closes in London
Original Title: Three Blind Mice
Based On: A real life case
Big Surprise: The Mousetrap didn’t repeat its London success on Broadway, proving not every Brit hit crosses the pond in triumph