Theatre review: The Mousetrap

Agatha Christie's classic whodunnit play returns to Australian shores.

Agatha Christie’s legendary The Mousetrap returns to Australian stages, a decade after its last major production.  

It is no surprise that Christie, the master of mystery, has crafted such a clever story. But even she couldn’t really explain the enduring popularity of a play that opened in 1952 and has been running ever since.

Despite not including either of her most famous sleuths, Miss Marple or Hercule Poirot, it became a popular tourist attraction and has featured a multitude of casts over its extraordinary run. It is arguably the forerunner of the concept of theatre mega hits drawing travellers to a particular city that productions like Cats, The Lion King and Phantom of the Opera have since turned into a profitable business. 

And it’s an incredibly enjoyable night out. Yes, it’s a classic, some may say old fashioned style of play, but it’s a complete delight to return to this character-driven, three-act mystery full of laughs, drama and surprises. We feel like we have travelled back in time and it’s quite wonderful to experience the magic of this period of theatre with its sumptuous set, crisp costuming and the velvet curtain crashing soundlessly to the floor at the completion of every act.

Special mention must be made of the perfect music that evokes sitting around the family radio in pre-television times for your weekly dose of murder mystery. 

The rights to this theatrical juggernaut have been closely guarded throughout its history, and it’s a rare coup for producer John Frost to present an Australian production for its 70th anniversary. It demands a very particular style of playing and it is no surprise that director Robyn Nevin, herself a masterful performer, crafts her superb cast into a very slick troupe, landing all the laughs and gasps with immaculate timing. 

Most of the cast have very solid musical theatre heritage and embrace the heightened style requirements with ease. Leading the company is Anna O’Byrne, who many theatregoers will remember for her lovely Eliza in My Fair Lady a few years ago. She is utterly perfect in the role of Molly, graceful and heartfelt. Alex Rathgeber as her husband Giles is a perfect match, smooth and confident, and the two of them lead the company with an effortless style.  

But every character has a moment, and these actors seize their roles with joy. Laurence Boxhall plays Christopher with a lovely fragile energy and Tom Conroy as Detective Sergeant Trotter has impressive presence and range. And it is a rare privilege to see Gerry Connolly’s masterful comic genius at its best as Mr Paravacini. 

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It is fundamental to the long running success of this play, that the audience should keep the secret of ‘whodunit’ when they leave, and it is a lovely device to welcome the viewers into the ‘secret club’ of this delightful mystery. And you really shouldn’t miss this rare opportunity to see a classic success story of theatre as it celebrates its 70th year, presented with such impeccable style. 

The Mousetrap By Agatha Christie
Produced by John Frost for Crossroads

Theatre Royal, Sydney
Director: Robyn Nevin
Original 1952 Set Design: Robert Furse

Costume and Additional Set Design:Isabel Hudson
Lighting:Trudy Dalgliesh

Cast: Anna O’Byrne, Alex Rathgeber, Laurence Boxhall, Geraldine Turner, Gerry Connolly, Charlotte Friels, Adam Murphy and Tom Conroy
Tickets $89 – $159

The Mousetrap is playing until 30 October in Sydney.

  • The Mousetrap is currently playing in Melbourne before touring to Perth, Canberra, Brisbane and Parramatta.

Dennis Clements is a NIDA Acting graduate and has a BA focused on Literature, Theatre and Journalism. He won the Theatre prize in his graduation year from Curtin University in WA. He has extensive leading role performance credits in both professional and community based companies, and has directed numerous productions for Bankstown Theatre Company and Ashfield Musical society. He is a registered Marriage Celebrant if you want to get hitched, and has also reviewed for Australian Stage online theatre magazine for several years.