When it comes to a bucket list of shows to see, Agatha Christie’s The Mousetrap is up there at the top.
After all, the murder mystery has been running for 27 years with more than 27,000 performances in London and the iconic thriller has the best kept secret in British theatre.
Add to that mixture, the Devonshire Park Theatre as the setting and respected actress Susan Penhaligan treading the boards and you have a top night out.
There weren’t too many empty seats in Monday night’s opening performance of the touring production in which Susan Penhaligan as the comically grouchy Mrs Boyle leads a talented cast.
Harriet Hare and Nick Biadon are Giles and Mary Ralston, the owners of Monkshouse Guest House where the whodunnit takes place, and Lewis Chandler is delightful as guest Christopher Wren in what is his UK tour debut.
Strong performances from fellow guests John Griffiths as Major Metcalf and David Alcock as Mr Paravicini add to the mix alongside Geoff Arnold as Sergeant Trotter and the hugely talented Saskia Vaigncourt-Strallen.
The scenery may be basic – all the action takes place in the lounge of the guest house – but the show is filled with tension and keeps you guessing at every turn.
Susan Penhaligan is enjoying the role, despite never having seen the stage show before or read the book.
She said, “When the part came up, I read the play and I thought ‘wow’, it’s funny, tense, has great characters, brilliant plot, and what struck me was that it was based on a real event - chilling really. Agatha Christie is so clever, there’s always truthful emotion in her plays. She’s the second most read English writer after Shakespeare so she must have done something right.
“I am an Agatha Christie fan. I’ve read most of her books and I’ve read her biography. I think she’s fascinating. This is a great story. A guessing game of a whodunnit and a brilliant one at that. I like Mrs Boyle because she says it as it is, she doesn’t hold back. She’s the type of woman who is used to being in control of situations. Probably to make herself feel safe. I don’t think she feels safe in The Mousetrap. She’s funny too.”
“It’s a perfect plot, it’s vintage with very recognisable period characters and it’s spooky. It’s great quality entertainment. I think it’s interesting to see an original play of hers, on the stage, rather than on TV, particularly as it was written for the theatre. It’s a different animal.”
“But I think nowadays, because of the many TV Agatha’s, audiences are familiar with the world they are entering. The pact between actors and audience is made the moment the curtain goes up. I’m sure they think ‘Ah, we know where we are with this one’ and they relax. And the great thing is, no one knows who the murderer is. Unless you’ve been before.”
The show runs until Saturday September 28 and it’s well worth running after.
Tickets are priced from £21 and to book call the box office on 412000 or online eastbournetheatres.co.uk