15/11/2012 - 24/11/2012
WELLINGTON SET TO HOST THE MOUSETRAP
IN CELEBRATION OF THE 60th ANNIVERSARY YEAR OF AGATHA CHRISTIE’S ICONIC PLAY
The world’s most famous thriller, Agatha Christie’s iconic play The Mousetrap will play a New Zealand exclusive season in Wellington of 12 performances only at the St. James Theatre from November 15 – 24. Following sold out seasons across Australia this critically acclaimed production is coming to Wellington for an exclusive New Zealand season.
2012 marks The Mousetrap’s (60th) Diamond Anniversary and this new production, which has been playing to capacity houses in Australia since June, is one of 60 professional productions that have been licensed worldwide in year-long global celebrations of the milestone, which will have included productions in every continent with productions in countries from Russia and China to Turkey, Holland and Venezuela.
The Mousetrap is the longest running show of any kind in the world and continues to delight audiences to this day at London’s St. Martin’s Theatre. Christie’s classic ‘whodunit” opened on London’s West End in November 1952 and has since played over 24,000 performances.
The Mousetrap is produced in New Zealand by Michael Coppel, Louise Withers and Linda Bewick in association with Adrian Barnes and by arrangement with Mousetrap Productions Ltd London and is proudly supported by Positively Wellington Venues.
Producer Louise Withers said, “With seasons selling out fast in Australia, we are delighted to have the opportunity to now bring this critically acclaimed production to New Zealand, and for Wellington to be its exclusive host. We know that New Zealand audiences will delight in trying to solve this classic whodunit as have many audiences before them”.
Chief Executive of Positively Wellington Venues Glenys Coughlan said, “The venues team is delighted to be working with the international producers to bring The Mousetrap to Wellington.
Not only is bringing a stage show with The Mousetrap’s pedigree to Wellington a real catch for us, but it’s a fantastic opportunity to promote the fact that Wellington is a great arts market that supports a wide range of shows and productions.”
“ As a venue management company our aim is to start securing more exclusive seasons for Wellington and by partnering with international producers we can populate Wellington’s performance calendar to complement shows like WoW and festivals like the New Zealand International Festival of the Arts.”
The Mousetrap will play its New Zealand exclusive season at the St James Theatre, in the heart of Wellington’s vibrant entertainment district.
“It’s both fantastic and fitting that the culture capital has secured the world’s longest running show as a New Zealand exclusive”,added Positively Wellington Tourism Chief Executive David Perks.
“New Zealanders love great theatre and great nights out in Wellington. We look forward to many visitors being drawn to experience this classic whodunit in the heart of the city’s entertainment district, where St James Theatre is surrounded by a string of the culinary capital’s show-stopping bars and restaurants.”
Fondly referred to as the “Queen of Crime”, Agatha Christie is the world’s best-selling storyteller with a strong following today, almost one hundred years since publication of her first novel and ardent fans of all ages the world over.
Originally written by Christie as a radio play titled Three Blind Mice and broadcast in 1947, Christie then adapted the radio play for a short story of the same name before again rewriting for the stage as The Mousetrap.
The Mousetrap has never been adapted for film. Christie did not expect the play to run for more than a few months and stipulated that no film of The Mousetrap be made until six months after the West End Production closed. As the show celebrates its 60th anniversary and continues its historic London run a film adaptation looks unlikely.
Agatha Christie’s iconic play will be brought to life by a stellar cast, which includes Robert Alexander (Bell Shakespeare, Dance Academy, Muriel’s Wedding), Travis Cotton (MTC’s Hamlet, Black Swan’s Away), Linda Cropper (Offspring, Melba, Little Fish, Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries), Nicholas Hope (AFI recipient; Best Actor in a Leading Role for his performance in Bad Boy Bubby), Jacinta John (All Saints, McLeod’s Daughters), Gus Murray (Baz Luhrmann’s The Great Gatsby, McLeod’s Daughters), Justin Smith (Bastard Boys, Rent, Billy Elliot the Musical) and Christy Sullivan (MTC’s Next to Normal, Packed to the Rafters).
Producer of The Mousetrap in London, Sir Stephen Waley-Cohen said,“It seemed fitting to commemorate The Mousetrap’s 60th year in a way that reached beyond London. Generations of New Zealanders have attended and enjoyed the show and when we decided to celebrate with 60 professional productions in 60 countries it was also a way to give those generations a chance to revisit and share the excitement of The Mousetrap with friends and family who may not have been to London and had the opportunity to see the show, which continues its West End run night after night.”
Having thrilled audiences that span many generations, The Mousetrap continues to delight new theatregoers with all the classic elements that have made Agatha Christie’s works as appealing today as when they were first written.
With only 12 performances in New Zealand and exclusive to Wellington, this is a rare opportunity to see The Mousetrap in this official 60th Anniversary Diamond Australasian Tour.
At Monkswell Manor, the news on the radio reports that a murder that has recently taken place in London. Mollie and Giles Ralston, the young owners of the once-regal estate recently converted into a guesthouse, hardly notice the news. They are far too busy preparing for the arrival of their first guests and concerned that the heavy snowfalls may prevent the guests reaching their destination. As the guests arrive safely and the Manor becomes snowed in, a policeman arrives on skis suspecting that one of the seven occupants may be the killer. After a second murder occurs in the Manor, Sergeant Trotter is convinced. Suspects include the young married couple, a spinster with a curious background, an architect who seems better equipped to be a chef, a retired army major, and an unexpected visitor who claims his car has run into a snowdrift. During his interrogation, Sergeant Trotter uncovers the many mysterious secrets of everyone present, as he tries to solve the murder in true Christie style.
AGATHA CHRISTIE’S THE MOUSETRAP
(60th) Diamond Anniversary Tour
St. James Theatre, Wellington
November 15 – 24, 2012
Tickets from Ticketek
Tel: 0800 TICKETEK or (04) 384 3840 from a mobile
Review by Lynn Freeman 21st Nov 2012
So this is what all the fuss has been about for 60 years? Perhaps my expectations were unreasonably high having waited so long to see this Agatha Christie classic that’s been a West End staple. Or may it’s just not a great play that hasn’t stood the test of time, performed by actors who’ve played the one dimensional stereotypical roles for just too long to have any joy left in performing it.
There were a lot of yawns and people nodding off on Friday night, myself included.
We are also effectively sworn to secrecy at the end of the show, answering one of the questions I had on entering the St James.
How has the whodunnit’s big secret survived six decades? Apart from the fact I figured it out well before the big reveal, by the time the mystery was solved, I was well past caring.
The frustrations I had with the production were compounded by the knowledge that this overseas production’s run may well fill the St James with people prepared to pay a premium to see it. But having just spent some time revisiting this year’s homegrown theatre productions for the Chapman Tripp Theatre Awards nominations, it’s heartbreaking that so much great work often attracted such small audiences.
It used to be that New Zealanders would pay to see clapped out European ballet dancers in lackluster productions rather than supporting the Royal New Zealand Ballet Company. That’s changed and hopefully our theatre will see the same kind of thing in the future, because apart from the flash set, and a couple of ok performances, this production was dull, expensive and forgettable.
Copyright © in the review belongs to the reviewer
Enduring ‘trap’ is delightful
Review by Ewen Coleman [Reproduced with permission of Fairfax Media] 19th Nov 2012
Having played on London’s West End continuously since 1952, with rarely any other production’s of the play anywhere else during that time, Agatha Christie’s The Mousetrap is now seeing the light of day around the world as a celebration of its 60 years.
Agatha Christie become one of the most famous writers of the ‘whodunit’ genre and her play The Mousetrap (originally called The Blind Mice) fits into this mould perfectly.
A group of disparate and eccentric individuals are holed up in a remote hotel during a snow blizzard with a killer on the loose. When one of them is killed the interrogation into ‘whodunit’ begins.
Although the famous ending – not to be revealed outside the theatre – has a certain fascination about it and the revelations as they unfold are mildly amusing, as thrillers go the play is not overly gripping, especially with so much of the genre on television these days.
So why is it that a play of this type is still going so strong? Partly this is due to its own momentum – audiences go find out what has made it live so long – and partly the wonderful array of characters.
And this Australian production with its all Australian cast under the direction of Gary Young have pulled out all the stops to create an exceptional piece of period theatre.
On an elaborately designed set by Linda Bewick that is the epitome of a English Manor house and with Suzy Strout’s wonderfully in-period costume and hair designs the actors have a ball.
The ever-so-twee young English couple Giles and Mollie Ralston running the hotel are perfectly played by Gus Murray and Christy Sullivan.
Into their establishment arrives hyperactive young Christopher Wren (Travis Cotton), the curmudgeonly Mrs Boyle (Linda Cropper), the rather staid Major Metcalfe (Nicholas Hope), the mannish Miss Casewell (Jacinta John), the fanatical foreigner Mr Paravicini (Robert Alexander) and the investigating officer Detective-Sergent Trotter (Justin Smith).
With wonderfully heightened performances that play up the stereotypical eccentricities beautifully, yet never so extravagantly that the characters don’t appear real within the context of the play, they bring out loads of humour to make this a most delightful evenings entertainment of the world’s most enduring play.
Copyright © in the review belongs to the reviewer
Cleverly-wrought whodunit handsomely delivered while mystery abides
Review by John Smythe 17th Nov 2012
The title comes from the name Hamlet chose for the play he and his travelling player mates staged to “catch the conscience of the King”. “’Tis a knavish piece of work,” he tells Claudius: “but what o’ that? Your majesty and we that have free souls, it touches us not: let the galled jade wince, our withers are unwrung.” I love that line!
Originally a half-hour radio play, commissioned in 1947 by the BBC as part of a special light entertainment programme to honour Queen Mary (the king’s mother) on her 80th birthday, because she had requested an Agatha Christie play, it was called Three Blind Mice. But that title had been taken by a 1938 movie, hence the name change – although Christie stipulated her play may not be adapted for the screen until its stage season was over.
She had donated her 100 guinea fee from the BBC to the Southport Infirmary Children’s Toy Fund and gifted the rights to the stage play to her grandson on his ninth birthday before what she hoped would be “a nice little run” commenced, on 25 November 1952, so despite its record-breaking run (about to hit 60 years not out, hence the Diamond anniversary celebrations with 60 productions worldwide this year), it never paid her a personal penny.
I must confess that during my two visits to London, The Mousetrap at St Martin’s Theatre (to which it had transferred from The Ambassadors without missing a performance) was never on my list of ‘must sees’. Yet having performed in three productions of Shakespeare’s Hamlet and participated in annual rehearsed-reading presentations of Tom Stoppard’s The Real Inspector Hound throughout this century, my interest in seeing it has increased.
It was Stoppard’s experiences as a theatre critic in Bristol that inspired him to write his absurdist parody of Agatha Christie’s ‘surprise hit’ whodunit, some 16 years after it had opened. Stoppard satirises Christie, the genre, thespians and the nefarious activities and fantasies of critics, with jealousies as the prime motivators for various crimes. I mention it, and Hamlet, here because I cannot pretend that my first encounter with The Mousetrap is not affected by knowing them well.
The manor house in a remote location isolated by bad weather, radio broadcasts reporting a murder and describing a suspect on the loose, a single telephone line that gets cut, a policeman braving the storm to prevent further murders and the astonishing twist at the end are all elements Stoppard recycled. But the motivator in The Mousetrap is (as with Hamlet) revenge.
The reason Monkswell Manor is considered a target is that it is one of two addresses in a notebook found at the London crime scene. The now-deceased Mrs Maureen Lyon (nee Stanning) had been the cruel foster-parent of three children given into her abusive care at nearby Longridge Farm, where one boy died. The whereabouts of his brother and sister, now young adults, are unknown; their birth mother is dead and their father joined the army. “Three Blind Mice” was also written on the notebook, below the addresses …
A child’s voice singing the nursery rhyme opens the play and it is variously played with one finger in the drawing room (off), or whistled in the dining room (off), throughout the play. At times characters declare they have been blind to some truth or other.
The titular mice, then, are the potential victims of someone intent on punishing the adults who had been so blind to the plight of the defenceless children. So amid the eight characters who become stranded at Monkswell Manor, there is almost certainly a vengeful murderer who has two further victims marked down. “’Tis a knavish piece of work” indeed.
Mollie Ralston has inherited the manor from an aunt, and rather than sell it she and her husband of one year, Giles, are opening it as a guest house. It turns out they wed just three weeks after they met and know very little about each other.
The photo above suggests Mollie is the mouse in Giles’ trap but she exudes post-war grit and determination alongside her natural compassion while Giles seems uptight, nervous and somewhat out of his depth as ‘mine host’. Christy Sullivan and Gus Murray acquit themselves crisply in these roles as they vacillate between young love and fear of the unknown; fear of their task, their guests and eventaually of each other.
Just four single guests have booked in as inaugural customers. Why? Are any of them who they say they are and if so, what else about their pasts may prove germane to the unfolding mystery? Who are the ‘galled jades’ with reasons to wince?
Christopher Wren – named, he says, after the great architect whose vocation he has adopted – is a manic young man who operates mostly at the high extremity, adoring the architecture, the furnishings and the opportunity to get into the kitchen and cook. Played with energetic ebullience by Travis Cotton, and sporting the dank long locks of a poet, he could be an escapee from Wilde or Coward.
The judgemental and constantly critical Mrs Boyle, who successfully alienates everyone else, is emphatically nailed by Linda Cropper. The enigmatic Major Metcalf, played with aplomb by Nicholas Hope, makes himself useful while showing an inordinate interest in the basement.
An ectomorphic Jacinta John intrigues as the ‘mannish’ and prickly Miss Leslie Casswell, whose unhappy childhood haunts her still despite her attempts to escape and/or ignore it. She could snap into an art deco frame at any moment.
The unexpected guest who didn’t book but whose Rolls Royce has rolled in a snow drift is the eccentric Mr Paravicini. Robert Alexander has a ball in this role, gleefully teetering on the balance of credibility vis-à-vis his accent and age as he (Paravicini) treats it all as a game. But why does he not want his luggage retrieved from his car?
In the nick of time, before the snow storm closes them in, Detective-Sergeant Trotter arrives on skis, his mission: to protect the innocent and apprehend the guilty. Justin Smith is very credible as the somewhat obsessive journeyman copper who has worked his way up through diligence and commitment.
Does the re-enactment scene, where everyone is asked to recreate the actions of another following the second murder, right under their noses, count as his device to ‘catch the conscience’ of the perpetrator? Perhaps.
Overall the actors shout a lot, as if they’ve been told the St James has a bad acoustic, despite the wooden-panelled ‘sound-shell’ quality of Linda Bewick’s excellent set (lit by Matt Cox). Yet despite their volume, somewhat enhanced by microphones we suspect, enunciation of consonants is an issue at times – as corroborated by others I canvassed who sat in different parts of the theatre.
That said, as directed by Gary Young, the top-flight Australian cast delivers this best-known and cleverly-wrought whodunit handsomely, abetted by Suzy Strout’s superb costume and hair designs.
As to why this play is the longest running one ever: that remains the abiding mystery. But at a time when child abuse and murder in the real world are almost daily occurrences, it does touch on timeless and universal themes.
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