The Mousetrap phenomenon

The Mousetrap at the Devonshire Theatre
The Mousetrap at the Devonshire Theatre

The English-speaking world is divided into two: those who have seen The Mousetrap and those who haven’t - writes Kevin Anderson of the production at the Devonshire Theatre.

It’s Middle England in midwinter.

The country-house set is authentic and impressive, with stained glass and dark oak panelling, but the initial mood is light. An eager young couple – the sympathetic and perfectly paired Mark Homer and Esther McAuley – have just opened their new hotel venture, and a random set of visitors all shake off the snow on arrival.

There is a hyperactive young man – a wonderful Edward Elgood – and a retired major, played thoroughly decently by William Ilkley. Hester Arden is an enigmatic lass, while Anne Kavanagh’s crotchety old lady disapproves of everything, and Jonathan Sidgwick plays Italian Paravicini with a flourish. But among them lurks a murderer, and in sweeps Sergeant Trotter (Luke Jenkins) to burrow his way through dark secrets to the shocking truth. Great credit to all eight actors for coaxing every ounce of life out of the stereotypes - but the plot is everything.

The production – halfway through a phenomenal UK tour that just underlines the play’s following – has many strengths: bright playing, pace and clarity, lovely comic moments, and a genuine sense of encroaching, tightening fear as we reach the denouement.