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Review: The Mousetrap at The Orchard Theatre, Dartford

There are certain on stage must-sees which have passed me by. The 39 Steps, Death of a Salesman, Macbeth.

The Mousetrap was one of them, until this week.

For me, it’s one of those things that has always been there (Agatha Christie’s murder mystery opened in the West End in 1952 and has been running continuously ever since) but you never get round to doing anything about. But I’m glad I did.

Tony Boncza (Major Metcalf), Oliver Gully (Christopher Wren) and Anna Andresen (Mollie Ralston). Picture by Liza Maria Dawson
Tony Boncza (Major Metcalf), Oliver Gully (Christopher Wren) and Anna Andresen (Mollie Ralston). Picture by Liza Maria Dawson

The play is still being performed in the West End, but is touring too. With it right on your doorstep, it would be rude not to take up the opportunity.

The plot is set in a country house, opened that day to new guests who find themselves thrust into the middle of a murder case. Cut off by the snow, a police officer manages to reach them but the tension builds as their pasts are revealed and the realisation that the killer could be among them – and strike again.

Despite the torrid tale, there is still plenty of humour and lots of opportunity for confusion as people disappear out of doors, windows and up and down numerous staircases.

The characters are strong and the pace fast-moving enough to keep you hooked but with enough pause for you to feel some sympathy for the characters, and give you time to question what you thought of them five minutes earlier.

Louise Jameson as Mrs Boyle. Picture by Liza Maria Dawson
Louise Jameson as Mrs Boyle. Picture by Liza Maria Dawson

Louise Jameson brings a frostiness to Mrs Boyle which immediately urged you to want to know more, while praise must go to Anna Andresen (Mollie Ralston) who was on stage for most of the time.

Gregory Cox brought a naughty edge to Mr Paravicini with a laugh that reminded me of The Count from Sesame Street - funnily scary - while Oliver Gully, as the childlike Christopher Wren, managed to keep his character the right side of annoying, with a voice almost as loud as his yellow trousers.

Opening nights always have something to challenge. The woman sat in front of me talking to her friend and another sat behind me rustling wrappers had nothing on the near-constant coughing from the audience. There must be a summer flu epidemic that’s also passed me by.

Anna Andresen (Mollie Ralston). Picture by Liza Maria Dawson
Anna Andresen (Mollie Ralston). Picture by Liza Maria Dawson

But the cast ploughed on, no doubt having witnessed far worse, which they did when someone in the audience was suddenly taken ill and whisked quickly out of the auditorium.

They carried on, ever the professionals, to the point I almost missed the whodunnit, certainly missed the next twist but managed to catch up a few lines later.

Of course to tell any more would betray all those who have kept the secret of the twists and turns after so many years, and I’m not spilling the beans.

Catch it while you can. Just take a cough sweet.

The Mousetrap is on at Dartford’s Orchard Theatre until Saturday, May 21. Pre-show dining is available before the show at the Orchard’s restaurant, if booked in advance with the tickets. Visit orchardtheatre.co.uk or call the ticket office on 01322 220000.


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