With a killer out for revenge, The Mousetrap by Agatha Christie is a murder mystery that hopes to slay audiences at the Ottawa Little Theatre.
Should you see it?
With the prolific Agatha Christie name, comes an expectation of a polished and well paced mystery. Her development of the crime genre has been imitated in the theatre by many, but rarely does it measure up to the real thing. The Mousetrap delivers on the promise of intrigue, suspense, and unexpected surprises.
In this “whodunit”, newlyweds Mollie and Giles Ralston have opened up their home, Monkswell Manor as a guest house. With every room occupied, the police inform Mrs. Ralston that a murderer might be among their guests. Trapped inside by a blizzard, Detective Sergeant Trotter arrives via skis to investigate the scene. It seems, however, that everyone in the house has something they are trying to hide.
Director Nicole Milne choose to set the play in the 1950’s but put a contemporary spin on the characters. Both Christopher Wren and Miss Casewell embodied mannerisms that push against traditional gender roles. Those characters won over the audience, but seemed out of place given the setting.
Venetia Lawless was consistently engaging as the lead Mollie Ralston, as she anchored the play. Her maternal nature was complementary to the child-like portrayal of Christopher Wren by Phillip Merriman. Aidan Dewhirst was commanding as the Detective Sergeant Trotter.
The biggest issue that plagued the cast were the accents. Michael McSheffrey as Giles Ralston opened the play with dialogue so rushed it was incomprehensible. Similarly, Robert Mudenge as the smug Mr. Paravicini, was difficult to interpret because of his overly enthusiastic voice. They could both benefit by slowing their words to give better enunciation.
Michelle Paré offered a strong, masculine interpretation of Miss Casewell. Mrs. Boyle, played by Sharron McGuirl, was wonderfully dreadful. Patrick Cullen as the subdued but confident Major Metcalf rounded out the performers. Unfortunately I found these characters to be so autonomous that the cast lacked chemistry overall.
As usual at the Ottawa Little Theatre, the set design by Paul Gardner was well engineered. This time he transported the audience to the Great Hall in Monkswell Manor with an evening blizzard happening outside through the window. There did appear to be some technical issues during the performance I attended, as the radio dialogue was too quiet to hear, and the lights came on in the audience halfway through Act 1.
Despite the minor technical errors, this production was a delight. Rarely do I witness the audience erupt at intermissions with conspiratorial conversation of who the murderer is. The Mousetrap has as many laughs as it does red herrings, and it’s thrilling to watch this mystery unfold. As tradition, for audiences who haven’t seen the play, I’ll keep whodunit a secret.
But that’s just my opinion and I’d love to hear what you think. Did the characters evoke your suspicions or fall flat? Did you enjoy solving the mystery? Let us know by joining the discussion in the comments.
The Mousetrap runs at the Ottawa Little Theatre from now until November 8th.