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Guys & Dolls theatre review

Entering a timeless tradition

On 7th March 2024, I became part of 72 years of theatrical history, immersing myself in the world of the Queen of Crime and the longest-running play in British theatre.

I watched the 29,515th performance of Agatha Christie's The Mousetrap.

Originally broadcast as a radio play called Three Blind Mice in 1947 as an 80th birthday present for Queen Mary, it premiered in October 1952 in Nottingham, moving to its current home at St Martin's Theatre in March 1974.

The instant you step through the doors of St Martin's Theatre, you feel you've stepped back in time. With its 1930s art deco touches and nostalgic opulence, The Mousetrap feels it has always belonged here.

The theatre, now fully air-conditioned, has embraced modern comforts while preserving its historic charm. Don't forget to buy a programme to get an official stamp with your show's performance number, and of course have lots of shameless photos next to the performance number in the foyer.

Before the curtain rises, allow some time to enjoy a pre-show drink at one of the three bars. There's one on each level and you can sample an Agatha Christie themed cocktail, or sip on a Mousetrap gin, which is exclusive to the theatre. A themed gin & tonic? How can you say no? I enjoyed a Mousetrap gin and tonic at the very top of the theatre, where the walls are adorned with framed newspaper reviews and cartoons celebrating the show's long history. Along with ornate ashtrays set into the walls for that interval cigarette (it really was a very different time!), it all sets the scene perfectly for what is to come.

Promo image of the cast

A masterful mystery unfolds

Now, we're not going to break a 72-year-old theatre secret here, but it can't hurt to give a taste of what the play is all about. The setting is a remote countryside guesthouse owned by Giles and Mollie Ralston – Monkswell Manor. The play opens with news announced on the radio of a murder in London and soon seven strangers find themselves snowed in together, when a police sergeant arrives to announce that a killer is among them. As each character reveals their past, the audience tries to figure out who the murderer is.

The set of Monkswell Manor may have stayed the same over the years, but the cast changes regularly to keep the production fresh – each new actor adding their own unique touch. Many famous faces have performed in The Mousetrap, beginning with Sir Richard Attenborough and including Hugh Bonneville and Miranda Hart. In fact, over 460 actors have trod the boards over the years, with actor David Raven entering in the Guinness Book of Records for a staggering 4,575 performances! That's definitely worthy of one of those Christie cocktails!

Interestingly, the only original part of the set left is the clock on the mantelpiece that's been there since the very beginning, and the radio announcer is the voice of actor Derek Guyler who sadly passed away in 1999, but has appeared in every UK showing of The Mousetrap to date.

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An unforgettable theatrical experience

As the plot thickened and suspicions mounted, I found myself on the edge of my seat, sipping my gin and eagerly anticipating each revelation. The intricate conclusion, which I won't spoil, not only brought a huge gasp from the audience but tied together the narrative threads with finesse, as only Christie can do.

The Mousetrap at St Martin's Theatre is a must-see for mystery and theatre enthusiasts alike. Its enduring popularity testifies to its timeless appeal and the enduring craftsmanship of Agatha Christie. Whether you're a longtime fan or new to her work, this production offers an unforgettable theatrical experience that will keep you engaged from start to finish.

Don't miss the opportunity to unravel the mystery of The Mousetrap for yourself. It's a theatrical gem that continues to captivate audiences night after night but you must remember – shhhhhh, it's a secret.