REVIEW: The Mousetrap at Chichester Festival Theatre

The touring cast of Agatha Christie's The Mousetrap. Picture:
The touring cast of Agatha Christie's The Mousetrap. Picture:
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With more than 26,000 performances held in its West End home since 1958, this is the longest-running show in the world.

It is so legendary that it has its own mythology: first performed by Richard Attenborough and his wife Sheila Sim, it boasts a plot twist so surprising that audience members are asked not to share it by the cast when they take their bows.

When the twist is revealed, the whole piece collapses under the weight of its own hype

I will respect their wishes, but there’s really not much need – you can guess the murderer’s identity before you’re an hour into the show.

With only one death onstage by the close of the first half, you expect the second to be filled with even more murder and intrigue.

And while there is tension and paranoia aplenty, the plot gets bogged down in more hypothesising and when the twist is revealed, the whole piece collapses under the weight of its own hype.

So many plot threads are left dangling or are hurriedly explained that it feels like Dame Agatha’s cheque cleared just before penning the climax.

There was a shred of hope left when in the final moments an exchange of packages offered the one-two punch of a further twist. My jaw slackened in readiness for it to hit the floor.

But instead it slammed shut into a grimace as two characters declared their love for one another, followed by a farcical ending involving a burnt pie – both of which were puzzling considering a murderer had just been caught and a corpse was slowly expiring in the drawing room.

To give the show some credit, the production values were fantastic and the acting was solid, if a bit too hammy, even for a Christie story.

Audible gasps from some corners of the auditorium proved that some theatregoers were caught in the titular trap. But for a writer so celebrated for the intricacy and precision of her storylines, I was expecting much more – especially after an enjoyable evening I spent watching Christie’s stage adaptation of her novel And Then There Were None recently.

The latter proved why Agatha Christie is known as The Queen of Crime – here she is The Handmaid of Disappointment.

Until November 28, with a run at New Theatre Royal in Portsmouth next year.