Call myself an Agatha Christie fan? It's a dreadful confession, but until a short time ago, I'd never even got around to watching The Mousetrap. Yes, the longest-running play of all time, by a country mile, and I'd not seen it. Thanks to an initiative of the Crime Writers' Association, and in particular of its new chair, Alison Joseph, I've finally remedied this shocking omission.
The Mousetrap is, of course, a classic Golden Age whodunit. It began life as a radio play, Three Blind Mice, but Christie, who was very keen on the theatre, adapted it for the stage. She had a mixed record as a playwright. Some of her stage plays were not particularly successful - I recall being a bit disappointed by Fiddlers Five, when I saw it on its early run in Manchester, as a birthday treat in my teens. In fact, Christie obviously realised that something was amiss, since a revised version appeared before long, called Fiddlers Three! As far as I know, it has never been published, so I have not had a chance to check on my original judgment..
Things were very different when it comes to The Mousetrap, which is now in its sixtieth year. It's become a real British institution, a must-see for tourists as well as fans of detective stories. I really did enjoy the play. It is good, unpretentious light entertainment, and the cast did a very good job with the material. Yes, it's a period piece, but that accounts for a great deal of its charm.
Alison Joseph had arranged with the management of St Martin's Theatre, a small but appealing theatre with lots of "Mousetrap memorabilia" on show in the bar, that we would have a backstage tour after the play. This was great fun. So now I know how the effects of the wind, and of the falling snow,are produced. As with the solution to the central mystery in the play, however, my lips must remain sealed...