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Review: The Mousetrap continues to captivate audiences

The Mousetrap certainly has enduring appeal – its West End run, playing since 1952, makes it longest-running show of any kind in the history of theatre.

This excellent touring production opened at the New Theatre, Cardiff, tonight (Tuesday 1 October) for a much shorter run, and it’s definitely worth catching while it’s in town.

When a group of people find themselves gathered in a rural guest house in 1950s Berkshire, cut off by the snow, and alarmed by news reports of a brutal murder in London, they begin to suspect one of them is the killer on the run.

Fears are heightened when one of the guests is murdered, and others may be in danger.

Can intrepid Sgt Trotter solve the mystery before someone else loses their life?

It’s a familiar enough scenario – almost a cliche, in fact: so much so that this production plays it for laughs at times – notably through the brilliant comic performance of Lewis Chandler as outspoken, yellow-trousered young architect Christopher Wren.

The set is convincing as the newly-opened guest house in the old manor, with its wood-panelled walls, stained glass windows, and log fire, while the period costumes – with an emphasis on corduory and tweed – look just right for the time and place.

The other performances too are near faultless. The ever-wonderful Susan Penhaligon heads the cast as Mrs Boyle, a guest who is unimpressed with the lack of staff and inexperience of her hosts – and isn’t afraid to let them know.

Geoff Arnold does a great job as dogged Sgt Trotter – trying to piece together the mystery in a race against time, and sometimes frustrated at the lack of cooperation he receives.

And Nick Biadon and Harriett Hare are superb as the Ralstons – anxious to please their first guests, but even more anxious about being involved in a murder investigation, and about the secrets they may have been hiding from each other.

It’s easy to see why The Mousetrap has captivated generations of audiences – it presents a familiar, almost cosy, set-up; mysterious and sometimes amusing characters; and a genuinely puzzling mystery. But it also confronts us with some unsettling reminders of social injustice, and especially the suffering of children.

This is a thoroughly entertaining and top quality production, and if you want to catch it in Cardiff, you don’t have 60 years – it’s only here until Saturday.

The Mousetrap is at The New Theatre, Cardiff. Tickets are available online or from the box office on (029) 2087 8889.

Review by Andrew Weltch

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