Date: December 31 2012
It's a sign of our tech-savvy times.
“I already know who did it,” said Andy, the sweet 11-year-old kid I found myself sitting next to at Agatha Christie's The Mousetrap on Saturday night.
“I Googled it. Then I went to five different websites to check that they all said the same thing.”
“Well, keep it to yourself,” said Andy's mum, a blonde woman clutching a London anniversary program her parents had brought back for her after a UK visit. “I want to find out!”
Dressed in a suit but wearing a baseball cap, Andy turned out to be something of an Agatha Christie fan, encouraged by his mum.
“I like Poirot the best,” he said, munching on some chocolate, which left a smudge of brown on his cheek.
Andy's mum had struck up the whodunit conversation as the QPAC Playhouse house lights came up for interval.
I'd taken along two friends, all of us murder mystery fans, one particularly obsessed with the grand dame of crime fiction.
“That's classic Christie,” he kept exclaiming, whenever we discussed various tropes and possibilities, such as disguises, aliases and long-held secrets.
But when Andy started telling us he knew the answer, my friend took the opportunity to pop out to the restroom.
“I just didn't want to run the risk of him accidentally revealing the twist,” he confided later.
He needn't have worried. Andy held his chocolate-y tongue.
The Mousetrap is famous for its twist ending, which the audience is traditionally asked not to reveal once they leave the theatre.
My friends and I had all managed to get through life without succumbing to the temptation to do as Andy had done and Google the answer – and I strongly recommend you do the same.
Of course, having planted the idea in your head, you might be thinking right now about just opening another browser tab . . . but STOP! Don't do it.
There is, as our interval spitballing session proved, something altogether delightful in trying to work out the elaborate web that Dame Agatha created all those years ago.
In Monkswell Manor, Giles and Mollie Ralston await the arrival of their very first house-guests. New to innkeeping, they're run off their feet cooking and stoking fires, while news filters through of a vicious murder in London. When their guests arrive, they all turn out to be peculiar. Then into their midst comes a police detective-sergeant, who's found a link to that seemingly unrelated murder, and must work out who's in mortal danger – and who's the killer.
This production is touring as part of The Mousetrap's diamond anniversary. Think about that for a moment – this play has been running non-stop as long as Queen Elizabeth II has been on the throne. In November 2012, it passed its 25,000th performance.
It's a lovely journey into a particular tradition of British theatre – the drawing room set with multiple entrances, the articulated vowels, the stiff upper lips.
The predominantly Australian cast is uniformly good; with particular mentions for Travis Cotton as the exuberant, chintz-loving architect Christopher Wren and Robert Alexander as the spritely foreigner Mr Paravicini. Justin Smith is an energetic Detective-Sergeant Trotter, and Christy Sullivan is a sympathetic Mollie Ralston.
It's fair to say The Mousetrap is a little time warp of a play, and will likely remain so. It was current when it opened in 1952, but the advent of technology means plot points like ration books, guest references and cut phone lines wouldn't translate too easily. Because of that, some may find it dated. And given how used we are to plot twists these days, some may not find it as stunning a turnaround as crowds in the 1950s.
Having said that, a central theme of the play – what can you ever really know about a person? – remains relevant.
Young Andy fell into the mouse trap of surfing Google, but my Christie-obsessed friend had his patience rewarded by successfully guessing the killer. While both enjoyed the show, I'd wager the latter went home more satisfied.
To conclude, here's a lovely piece of Brisbane-related Mousetrap trivia:
The radio news broadcast used in the performance features the voice of British actor Deryck Guyler, who had a distinguished career in theatre, film (including A Hard Day's Night) and sitcoms such as Please Sir! and Sykes. Guyler's recording was used in the very first production of The Mousetrap, meaning he holds the unique distinction of acting in every single performance of the show.
Guyler retired and moved to Ashgrove in 1993, and died in 1999. One of his sons, Chris Guyler, is a well-known local theatre director and actor.
The Mousetrap plays at the QPAC Playhouse until January 20. Tickets available through www.qpac.com.au
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