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The Mousetrap, New Alexandra Theatre, Birmingham - review

Birmingham | Entertainment | Published:

Shirley, I hate you! Thirty-six years ago you told me - with no apparent shame or mortification - who the murderer was in Agatha Christie's Mousetrap. You just don't do that.

I remember being appalled and incredulous that you would break both a theatrical code of conduct and the threads on one of the last remaining webs of magic woven for grown-ups.

After the initial shock I counselled myself with the hope that your words were a wonderful confection of subterfuge and double-bluff.

London's West End was visited so rarely I never had the chance to see the show and have your possible cruelty substantiated or swept aside as rather black humour.

But now this world record-holder of a murder mystery is out on tour I've had a chance to see it and I can confirm Shirley has not played the game. The name she gave me was right and by naming the killer, she killed both the intrigue and the joy.

Not quite all of it of course because as I sat gripped waiting for her to be wrong, I had rather an enjoyable time along the way.

Want an antidote to today's Brexit, Fracking and Trump nonsense? Here it is. This production is quaint, twee and as cosy as a cardigan. Eight people gather in a country guest house but only seven survive. One person is already dead - found murdered, as announced in a chilling news report crackling forth from an old radiogram at curtain-up.

The play's set has it all. A welcoming fire, sofas buried by banks of cushions, velvet curtains, wood panelling, dim lamp light and guests brushing snow off their hats as they come in out the cold.

The actors are, to a man, marvellous. Action is clean and prompt. Oliver Gully, as Christopher Wren gives one of the most energetic performances - camp as Christmas and filling whichever part of the stage he is on, while Amy Downham as Miss Casewell is particularly enigmatic and brusque. Each actor makes his or her character look as guilty as sin - which is just what you want in a murder mystery which has intrigued the nation for more than 60 years and become part of our heritage.

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After the final curtain-call the words of polite insistence that we do not share the identity of the murderer is almost as thrilling to hear as any of the comedy/thriller/farce dialogue in the play itself.

Thrilling, stern and a plea you wouldn't want to ignore.

So, why did you do it Shirley?

By Sarah Cowen-Strong

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