Dame Agatha Christie’s classic ‘whodunnit,’ The Mousetrap, opened in London’s West End in 1952 and is the longest continuously-running play in history. St. Martin’s Theatre in London still performs six evening and two matinee shows a week 54 years later. The play also had the distinction of being Toronto’s own longest running show, opening in 1977 and closing after twenty-six and a half years in 2004. Now, The Mousetrap is back for a much shorter run at the Lower Ossington Theatre in Toronto.
The first act opens with the murder of a young woman just before visitors arrive at Monkswell Manor, a guesthouse in the English countryside. A fierce snowstorm results in the guests being trapped at the inn. While the checkered pasts of these hapless hotel guests are slowly revealed, they find out there is a murderer among them.
A talented and able cast do their best to refresh a murder mystery set in post-war England in 1950. Seasoned actors David John Phillips and Helly Chester playing Mr. Paravicini and Mrs. Boyle respectively bring dynamic ‘old school’ theatrical chops to the proceedings, in contrast to the more natural delivery of the younger cast. In the theatre’s compact setting, this was entirely appropriate, and an even tone prevailed. Inevitable comparisons to the cast and characters of TV’s Downton Abbey will no doubt be made by audience members.
Lauren Saunders as Miss Casewell, provides a standout performance. Her cool, collected demeanour, air of mystery, and bang-on accent brings an unexpected vitality to her portrayal. There always seems to be something going internally and you’ll find your attention returning to Saunders even when her character isn’t speaking.
Michael Galloro’s period set – creaky oak chairs, a formal leather sofa, brocade curtains and an unadorned fireplace – is well designed and makes the most of a small space. Robyn MacDonald’s costumes feature fine English tweeds and wool vests and are perfectly reflective of the era, as well as to each character. My only complaint would be the wigs, which were unrealistic enough as to be distracting.
Never having seen the play, it was fun to watch and attempt to figure out ‘whodunnit.’ If you haven’t seen The Mousetrap before, you’ll enjoy watching the mystery unfold. If you have seen it, you’ll enjoy watching a fresh new cast bring the story to life.
As per tradition, the audience is asked not to reveal the murderer’s identity once leaving the theatre, so you’ll just have to go see it firsthand to find out.
The Mousetrap at the Lower Ossington Theatre, 100A Ossington Avenue, Toronto is playing until June 12, 2016. Tickets are $49.99-$59.99 and can be purchased online.