REVIEW: Agatha Christie’s The Mousetrap, Grand Opera House, York ****

On tour: The company for Agatha Christie’s The Mousetrap. Picture: Matt Crockett

Agatha Christie’s The Mousetrap, 70th Anniversary Tour, Grand Opera House, York, snowed in until Saturday, 7.30pm nightly plus 2.30pm Wednesday and Saturday matinees. Box office:

PLEASING symmetry finds Agatha Christie’s The Mousetrap retaining its habit of playing the Grand Opera House every three years since the mouse first escaped its London trap for a Diamond Anniversary Tour in 2013.

Giles and Mollie Ralston (Laurence Pears and Joelle Dyson) may be novice hosts at the newly opened Monkswell Manor Guest House, but the furniture and wallpaper at this converted Berkshire manor house look suitably well-worn to match a comfortingly ageing play in its 71st year, still featuring the original set design with its grand entrances and closed doors, wood panelling and faded carpets.

Snow is falling, denoted by somewhat large, sporadic flakes on coats and hats, as each guest arrives, greeted by thoroughly decent, off the cuff, somewhat grouchy Giles and very organised Mollie, who turn out to have something of Fawlty Towers’ Basil and Sybil about them in their mutual point scoring.

This is old England where rationing still simplifies the menu; the radio informing of a murder in London is still called a wireless, and every man wears a dark coat, a light scarf and a felt hat (just like the chap seen exiting the scene of the crime apparently), in an early nibble at a false trail. The audience’s laughter is of the knowing kind, happy to be played by Christie’s mind games.

Hard boiled: Gwyneth Strong’s Mrs Boyle

Christie has assembled a rum assortment of guests ripe for both humour and something altogether darker. “All our guests are unpleasant or odd,” Giles will later observe ruefully of this eccentric bunch.

Enter schizophrenic young architect Christopher Wren (Elliot Clay), a practical joker with a streak of Peter Pan in his refusal to grow up, outwardly charming but crazed inside.

Next come sourpuss old stick and former magistrate Mrs Boyle (Gwyneth Strong, with a bristling performance to match that surname); brusque lesbian Miss Casewell (a clipped Essie Barrow), and sinister Mediterranean man of mystery Mr Paravicini (Kieran Brown, parading his Barricade Boys singing chops too).

He is the only one to arrive without a booking, his car having overturned in the snow, or so he claims, but then again, he could be casing the joint. Brown’s melodramatic performance, deliberately dodgy accent to boot, is just about straight, but like Clay’s Wren, he is all the more humorous for straying towards campery.

Sanguine Major Metcalf (Nicholas Maude, understudying the unavailable Todd Carty all week) fits in well. Then whoosh, last through the door, or rather, announcing his entrance with a tap on the window, is young Detective Sergeant Trotter (Joseph Reed), who has defied the inclement weather on skis. In another gentle bend to humour under Ian Talbot and Denise Silvey’s direction, he swings them around his head, forcing guests to duck each time he turns.

Taking notes: Joseph Reed’s Detective Sergeant Trotter conducting his investigations

Once the guest house and phone line are both cut off, the humour begins to play second fiddle to the mystery (except for Brown’s mischief-making Mr Paravicini) as Reed’s Trotter conducts his investigations with rising frustration.

The truth will out, revelation by revelation, as to why everyone is there. All the while, the nursery rhyme refrain of Three Blind Mice plays its haunting part in Christie’s venerable story.

The Mousetrap, anachronistic English Fifties’ entertainment to the conservative manner born, is not the greatest play ever written, with a little stiffness in the dialogue’s limbs and an afternoon nap in its tempo in the second half. 

However, without today’s gruesome gore, it is jolly good fun, replete with the requisite twists, turns and teases, suspicions and suspense, allied to psychological nous, to keep you guessing in the dark as the nerves tingle.

The affable cast members, with their dapper dress and plummy accents, have a period flavour about them that delights, and no rotter will surely defy Trotter’s request at the final curtain to keep schtum about whodunnit.

By Charles Hutchinson

Kieran Brown’s mysterious play days in Agatha Christie’s The Mousetrap head to Grand Opera House amid snow alert

Kieran Brown in the role of the mysterious Mr Paravicini in The Mousetrap. Picture: Matt Crockett

SNOW could be on its way to York this week and definitely will be in Agatha Christie’s murder mystery The Mousetrap, the longest running play in the world.

The British and Irish tour to mark the whodunnit’s 70th anniversary opened last September at Nottingham Theatre Royal, where its world premiere took place in 1952 before transferring to London for its unbroken run ever since, playing 28,500 performances and selling ten million tickets at the St Martin’s Theatre.

Next stop for Christie’s beloved tale of intrigue and suspense will be the Grand Opera House, York, from tonight to Saturday.

So, what’s the story? As news spreads of a murder in London, seven strangers find themselves snowed in at Monkswell Manor, a stately countryside guesthouse. When a police sergeant arrives, the guests discover – to their horror – that a killer is in their midst. One by one, the suspicious characters reveal their sordid pasts, but which one is the murderer? Who will be the next victim?

Heading to York will be a cast of Nicholas Maude (replacing the unavailable Todd Carty) as Major Metcalf; Gwyneth Strong as Mrs Boyle; Joelle Dyson as Mollie Ralston; Laurence Pears as Giles Ralston; Elliot Clay as Christopher Wren; Essie Barrow as Miss Casewell; Joseph Reed as Detective Sgt Trotter and Kieran Brown as Mr Paravicini.

Unlike Clay and Barrow, who have both performed in Christie’s drama in London, Kieran is a Mousetrap novice. “To my eternal shame, I had never seen it, had no idea of what it was about, and I didn’t read it until the first day or rehearsals, so I went into it with a completely fresh set of eyes,” says the Scottish actor, from Falkirk. “When it’s a show that’s been around for a while, I don’t think it’s healthy to see it before you do it, because you don’t want to copy someone.”

His role of Mr Paravicini, the most mysterious of all in the murder mystery, is described in the character crib notes as “the unexpected guest who arrives at Monkswell Manor due to the severity of the storm”.

Is he from Europe or is he putting it in on? “Well, he does make a point of overly pronouncing his name so that the detective sergeant can spell it correctly!” says Kieran.

“The way I’ve approached it is that I was undecided if it was all just an act. Is he really foreign or faking it? The director gives you a little freedom as to how you play your character, without having to tell anyone what you’ve decided. So, I’m going for more a Mediterranean flavour to his accent rather than Italian.”

The cast for the 70th anniversary tour of Agatha Christie’s The Mousetrap. Picture: Matt Crockett

Mr Paravicini’s character card – and he is a card! – says this of him: Occupation: Unknown. Manner: Roguish, game-player. Notes: Moves like a much younger man.

“He plays the markets. Read into that what you will,” says Kieran. “He says his car has overturned in a snowdrift, so he’s had to stagger through the snow to find a safe haven. There  are lots of signs of him being a conman or robber, who’s gone there to case the joint, on the chance of making money out of it.”

Assessing the undying appeal of The Mousetrap after all these years, Kieran says: “The audiences love the twists and turns, and when they have the rug pulled from under their feet, you can hear the gasp of surprise.

“It also feels like you’re all part of a secret club, you are all partners in crime – cast and audience – and you respect being asked to keep the ‘reveal’ a secret. So many people have been a party to that and don’t want to break it.”

As for Agatha Christie, “I think she’s such a wonderful writer. Some of the characters she has written here are so ahead of their day,” says Kieran.

“There are signs and pointers, a representation of characters that weren’t being represented in theatre at the time, and not in a negative way. She was brave enough to present characters who would identify as lesbian or gay, which was alien to her day. Maybe she’s kind of the last person you would think of as being sympathetic, but she was.”

The Mousetrap has stood the test of time. “There were attempts to modernise it, like replacing the radio with a television, but that just didn’t work. There’s no point trying to keep things up to date. It doesn’t need it. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it,” says Kieran.

Next week’s run will not be the first time that he has played the Grand Opera House. “I performed there with The Barricade Boys two years ago,” says Kieran, who sang alongside Scott Garnham, the musical theatre actor and singer from Malton, whose paths first crossed at the Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama (now the Royal Scottish Conservatoire). “But I was only in York for a day, so it will be lovely to spend a proper week there.”

His contract in The Mousetrap runs until May 6, concluding with three weeks back in his homeland in Perth, Edinburgh and Glasgow. The perfect ending.

The Mousetrap runs at Grand Opera House, York, from March 6 to 11, 7.30pm nightly plus 2.30pm Wednesday and Saturday matinees. Box office: .

Who are you? Meet Mr Paravicini…