After running continuously on the stage for the past 63 years, The Mousetrap has become as much of a British institution as red letter boxes or the Queen.
As a regular theatre-goer who has never seen the Agatha Christie masterpiece, I arrived at Royal & Derngate on Monday night feeling excited I was about to join the club of millions of people who know the identity of the murderer.
Early observations give some indications as to why The Mousetrap has proved so enduringly popular.
The play is set in Monkswell Manor, a large mansion, recently converted to a hotel, in a remote, rural location at the time of a heavy snowstorm.
A cast of eight eclectic characters are all introduced at regular intervals as Christie’s notoriously fiendish plot slowly unravels.
The newly-wed owners of Monkswell Manor, Giles and Mollie Ralson, are the first characters to fill the stage with the suspense-filled, slightly stilted dialogue common with the murder mystery genre.
Written by Christie in the 1940s, the play does not contain a great deal of humour but the camp, child-like Christopher Wren (Edward Elgood) attempts to raise a few laughs.
But his squeaky voice and over-the-top physical movements quickly became tiresome.
Anne Cavanagh’s performance as the pretentious, demanding Mrs Boyle is probably the most watchable as she enjoys feisty encounters with all her fellow house-guests
Credit also has to go to the production team as subtle dimming of the lighting on stage is extremely effective in adding to the murky, murderous atmosphere of the story.
Overall, this production of The Mousetrap contains no outstanding features that will live long in the memory.
It is not hilariously funny or contain any dramatic scenes that make you jump out of your seat but it undoubtedly provides enough intrigue to maintain the audience’s attention for a couple of hours.
Perhaps Agatha Christie herself sums up the play’s popularity best when she said: “It is the sort of play you can take anyone to. It’s not really frightening. It’s not really horrible. It’s not really a farce, but it has a bit of all these things and perhaps that satisfies a lot of different people.”
The Mousetrap is at Royal & Derngate until Saturday, September 12. To book go to ww.royalandderngate.co.uk