London street scene

The Mousetrap

St. Martin's Theater

This mouse is a lion!

As every mystery fan knows, Agatha Christie’s murder mystery play The Mousetrap holds the record for  the longest running play in the world. It opened in London’s West End in 1952 and ran continuously until March 16, 2020,with other 28,000 performances! It’s said that records are made to be broken, but this sixty-seven year run will surely stand the test of time!

As a lifelong lover of Christie, I’d long wanted to see The Mousetrap, and a few years ago, I got my chance. Even so, I wasn’t sure the play was still fresh enough to entertain. After that many years, things can get a little creaky. Well, I was wrong–dead wrong!

 Built in 1901, the cozy St. Martin’s Theater is the perfect venue for a classic murder mystery. The interior is somehow both intimate and elegant, an Edwardian feast of burnished woods and heavy burgundy curtains flecked with gold. I overheard a woman complaining about the tight seating, but that is the price of communing with the past–a small price, in my view. But as they say, the play’s the thing, and in this classic who-done-it, Dame Agatha doesn’t disappoint.

A juggling act?

Writing a mystery is a bit like juggling, only instead of balls, you’re juggling suspects. The writer strives to keep as many suspects in play as possible so that the reader–or viewer–is never quite sure who the killer is, until the last possible moment. But as the plot grows in complexity, it becomes more and more difficult to keep everything moving–inevitably balls are dropped or discarded as the suspect pool shrinks.

Agatha Christie
Agatha Christie in 1925

 The Mousetrap is a closed mystery. Because of a severe winter storm, the seven characters–along with the intrepid Detective Sergeant Trotter–are marooned at a guesthouse. One of them is a murderer, but which one? Until the play’s closing moments, any one of the suspects could have been the killer–that’s the equivalent of juggling seven balls over two hours. Believe me, that’s a lot of balls! As a mystery writer, I can only stand back in awe.

The Mousetrap is old-school. And maybe it creaks with the conventions of an earlier time. But all the elements that made Agatha Christie great are in this play. For now, there are plans to reopen for performances, hopefully later this year.

So take my advice, and put it on your bucket list. Then once we’ve kicked the Pandemic’s butt, hop the next plane to London.

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