No, I did not see ‘the Mousetrap’ as part of my continuing mission to reject what the cool people are doing.
I saw ‘The Mousetrap’ because it was a Father’s Day present for, well, my dad. He loved it, and I learnt this:
1) Agatha Christie is bloody amazing at structure
Now, you might not all like rigid structure. You might prefer a looser, character-led story, and that’s absolutely fine. However, if you were ever in the mood to learn anything about why structure might be important, I strongly recommend you watch a whodunnit *when you know who did it*. I watched ‘The Mousetrap’ knowing who the murderer was, but as a dramatist that was fantastic, because I was basically just watching the workings of the motor, and the motor is doing something REALLY unambiguously simple. There’s no capacity for unnecessary padding – that doesn’t help you work out who the murderer is. If it doesn’t help you work out who the murderer is, Agatha Christie already cut it decades ago. With that in mind, you can clearly discern not only the obvious dramatic purpose of each scene as presented, but also the purpose of each scene when you know who the murderer is and what their motivations are. Does it have the subtlety and depth of Pinter or Beckett? Well, no, but it never claims to, and that’s a good thing because…
2) It’s totally comfortable with what it is.
There are few things I dislike more in new writing than plays that fundamentally dislike themselves and/or their characters. You know the type – they give up on their internal logic half way through because it’s so flawed they stop respecting it. That’s the point at which Dramatic Things Start Happening because they’re appropriate, at least in a bizarre universe where this is in itself artistically valuable. This doesn’t happen in ‘The Mousetrap’. It knows perfectly well that it’s a closed-room murder mystery and it is DELIGHTED to be as such. The ‘qi‘ of the show, if such a thing can be said to exist without me sounding like a total dick, is entirely consistent throughout. It’s lovely watching a show that’s as unpretentious as ‘The Mousetrap’ is. It practically has ‘winks-to-camera’, for heaven’s sake, and it totally pulls them off by not being earnest about itself. You can see it in the cast too. You can tell a mile off when an ensemble are busting a gut to make a bad play work, but the cast of ‘The Mousetrap’ looked like they were having such fun, you could barely register the effort at all.
3) It’s actually got dramatic depth
In my head, once you’ve nailed down how you’re writing a thing and you’re comfortable with the internal logic and feel of the play, you suddenly develop an immense sense of freedom around what the actual content is. The backstory of ‘The Mousetrap’ is based on this really fucking upsetting 1945 child abuse case, which isn’t far off being a Royal Court Upstairs show in itself. There’s no Hercule Poirot or Miss Marple to distract you with their-over-familiarity – all the characters are one-offs who arise organically from the situation and, more importantly, *act as if they do*. The criminal isn’t identified by a piece of smug deduction, or a reliance on overly-arch social conventions (e.g. how the game of bridge works), but by an incredibly simple piece of recognition. In fact, it’s got a lot more spiritually in common with Chekhov’s 1884 novel ‘The Shooting Party’, than it does with pretty much any other book Christie wrote, except for one which I won’t name because it’ll spoiler it horrifically.
The only real drawback is that the average ticket price is about £38. LOL West End.