Saturday, May 13, 2023



The Mousetrap by Agatha Christie

Directed by Robyn Nevin. Costume Designer and Associate Set Designer Isabel Hudson. Kighting Designer Trudy Dalgleish. Associate Director Chris Parker. Technical Director Frank Harlow. Executive Producer Bernadette Hayes. Producer John Frost for CroSsroads Live. Canberra Theatre. Canberra Theatre Centre. May 11-21. Bookings: Canberra Ticketing 0262752700

Reviewed by Peter Wilkins


Audiences at the opening night of The Mousetrap were treated to a rare and wonderful  production of vintage Agatha Christie. It is seventy years since this classic murder mystery by the queen of crime fiction opened in London beginning a tradition that still lasts to today. Director Robyn Nevin has wisely decided to stage this Platinum Anniversary celebration with absolute devotion to the period. Producer John Frost has spared no expense in creating a magnificent set and assembling a superb cast to capture the mystery, eccentricity and intrigue of Christie’s  bewildering twists and turns, false leads and usual suspects in her maze of mystery.

Laurence Boxhall, Anna O'Byrne and Tom Conroy in THE MOUSETRAP

The setting is classic Christie. Monkwell Manor is set in a remote part of the Brisitish Isles, cut off from the rest of the country by a heavy snowstorm. The setting is rife for some very nefarious goings on. Mollie Rolston (Anna O’Byrne) and husband Giles (Alex Rathgeber) have opened their first venture in the hotel trade to some very unusual guests. There is the rather eccentric young Christopher Wren (Laurence Boxhall) who delights in tantalizing his hosts with manic renditions of nursery rhymes. The ascerbic Mrs Boyle (Geraldine Turner) is the fearsome matronly grouch. Mysterious Eliza Casewell (Katherine Pearson) is every inch the modern European woman in pants visitng her homeland for undisclosed reasons. Then there is the stiff backed Major Metcalf (Adam Murphy) and the comic operatic Italian Mr Paravicini (Gerry Connolly). And of course there is the earnest sleuth, the redoubtable Detective Sergeant Trotter (Tom Conroy).  

A look at the cast bios is enough to tell you that this is a stellar ensemble, brilliantly directed by Australian icon of stage and screen Robyn Nevin, whose eye for detail and theatrical effect is impeccable. Even the lowering of the curtain at the close of each scene harks back to the Golden Age of the Fifties mystery thriller and for two hours I am transported back to the era as this relic of a bygone time continues to surprise, thrill and delight. There is nothing archaic about John Frost’s touring anniversary production. It bursts with life from the opening strains of that ominous nursery rhyme of Three Blind Mice and the carefully elocuted and perfectly timed performances of the cast.

There is no need to tamper with this evergreen heirloom of the British stage. Christie’s talent is unassailable. Her ability to keep us guessing to the very last moment is irrefutable and Nevin and her cast and creatives ensure that we find ourselves in a time warp that is as bewitching, as captivating and as puzzling as when The Mousetrap opened at Nottingham’s Theatre Royal  on the 6th October 1952 before transferring to its long time home at the Ambassador’s Theatre in London’s West End.

Gerry Connolly and Geraldine Turner in THE MOUSETRAP

What is extraordinary about this production of The Mousetrap is that we are able to view it through the prism of another time that reveals the relationship between a recently married husband and wife whose roles are firmly established in the context of the period. Mrs. Boyle’s political cynicism is indicative of contemporary opinion and Christie has woven a fascinating back story for each of her characters that probes another layer in the actors’ performances. Nevin and her cast have ensured that we are not simply presented with caricatures but with characters whose lives disguise a deeper experience. It is a testament to Agatha Christie’s art as a storyteller and the skill of the production’s actors and creatives. 

In a final address to the audience actor Tom Conroy tells the audience that they are now complicit in the crime and are instructed not to reveal the murderer, a sentiment reinforced in a delightful rendition of Three Blind Mice before the curtain falls on this absolutely unmissable production. You won’t see a better on the Australian stage.

Photod by Brian Geach