The Mousetrap is coming to the Assembly Hall this month for an exclusive week of performances. The world famous whodunit by Agatha Christie is celebrating its 60th anniversary and is not only the West End’s but also the world’s biggest theatrical success to date. We spoke to one of the touring cast’s principle actors Oliver Gully who plays Christopher Wren about what it’s like to be part of such an acclaimed piece of dramatic theatre history.
How excited were you to find out you’d been cast as Christopher Wren in Mousetrap?
Incredibly so! Not only was it the chance to be part of what has become theatrical tradition, but for me Christopher Wren is one of The Mousetrap’s most engaging characters to play. Christie wrote what could have easily been a superficial stereotype in 1952 as a fully-rounded, multi-layered and unpredictable human being. She often gets praise for the complexity of her plots, but I don’t think she gets enough credit for the complexity of her characters.
Have you played this character before?
Earlier this year when we started rehearsing, I had never played the character, and had only seen the show itself once, but now as we come to Tunbridge Wells we’ve notched up over 280 performances, in theatres everywhere from Edinburgh down to the Channel Islands, so we’re getting pretty well practiced!
What do you enjoy most about playing him?
The character has been written brilliantly, with so many different textures, which make playing him constantly engaging, and actually constantly challenging; there’s always something new to discover, even after 280 shows. But also it’s an incredibly fun part to play, he gives off so much energy that it’s hard not to get carried along with him once you get started. Plus, to top it all off, the rest of the cast are always so responsive, focused and dedicated, they’re brilliant to work with.
How does his character fit into the play’s plot?
I’ll be cautious answering that question, I don’t want to be hauled up before the board for giving too much away! What I can say is that Christopher Wren is the first of the guests to arrive at the newly-opened Monkswell Manor Guesthouse, run by Giles and Mollie Ralston. He – along with the other guests – arrives just before heavy snowfall cuts the house off from the outside world, and before some shocking news is revealed. All the familiar suspects are present (Christie practically invented them, after all) and as the evening progresses, it becomes clear that there is a murderer among them. That’s about all I can tell you, I think.
Why do you think The Mousetrap has endured as a piece of theatre for so long?
I think that essential mystery does play a part in its success. At the end of each performance, the audience is asked to keep ‘whodunnit’ secret, and they do, it’s part of the tradition. It means the show always has a fresh audience keen to try and solve the mystery themselves. An audience that spans from 8 to 80, everybody can enjoy it. But above all that, it is a very well-constructed play. The psychological dimensions and motives of the plot are founded in truth (the play itself was inspired by a real case from 1945) and they have been put together to make a truly engrossing and engaging story.
- Not familiar with the tale of Mousetrap? Here’s a quick plot synopsis
The play is set in the Great Hall of Monkswell Manor, in what Christie described as ‘the present’
- Act I opens with the murder of a woman in London, played out in sound only on a dark stage. The action then moves to Monkswell Manor, recently converted to guesthouse run by a young couple, Mollie and Giles Ralston.
- Their first four guests arrive: Christopher Wren, Mrs. Boyle, Major Metcalf and Miss Casewell. They become snowed in together and read of the murder in the newspaper. An additional traveller, Mr Paravicini, arrives stranded after he ran his car into a snowdrift, but he makes his hosts uneasy.
- In the next scene, the imposing Mrs. Boyle complains to the other guests, first to Metcalf and then to Miss Casewell, who both try to get away from her. Wren comes into the room claiming to have fled Mrs. Boyle in the library. Shortly afterwards, the police call on the phone to inform the group that they believe a murderer is at large and on his way to the hotel. When Mrs Boyle is killed, they realise that the murderer is already there.
- Act II opens ten minutes later, where the investigation is ongoing. Each character is scrutinised and suspected.It quickly transpires that the killer could be any one of the guests, or even the hosts themselves. The characters plan
to set a trap re-enacting the second murder, trying to prevent a third . . .
The Mousetrap is on at the Assembly Hall from Monday November 7 until Saturday November 12. To find out more information regarding show times and tickets which are priced from £28 visit www.assemblyhalltheatre.co.uk