Agatha Christie’s The Mousetrap has a mysterious beginning and a mysterious end. According to tradition, it’s forbidden to give away the ending, but the beginning also has its quirky charm. In its original form, Christie’s work was a radio play called Three Blind Mice and was based on the real life death of a child in foster care in 1945. It was created in honour of Queen Mary and was broadcast on May 30th, 1947. Directed by Ron Ulrich, this traditional, mystery/comedy now performed more than twenty-five thousand times opens the Aquarius 2013/14 season over 70 years later.
Like its signature leitmotif Three Blind Mice (first published in 1609), Christie’s work has been riffed off of thousands of times: sometimes more comedy, sometimes more drama but always a recognizable and haunting tale that is now surely a part of our “collective theatre unconscious”. In a visually stunning opening, set designer Patrick Clark creates a lovely isolated ambiance with his glowing fireplace and epic bay window. Outside a storm rages, and inside the characters seem so small and helpless in contrast with the spectacle of nature’s power looming as a backdrop.
Performers move about the gracious space with ease which is attractive, but sometimes too smooth. It has a real sense of choreography which puts it clearly in the comedic category of interpretations. A more intimate space, even a crowded space might have highlighted the mentioned shabbiness of the establishment and created a deeper sense of entrapment.
Choices in character interpretation also lead this production in contrasting directions. That said, it’s not a matter of wrong or right or good or bad. Avid theatre goers will have seen many incarnations of this production and no doubt seen something different every time. In this show, standout performances were delivered by Alex McCooeye as Christopher Wren, Tony DeSantis as Mr. Paravicini, Jo Skilton as Mrs. Boyle, and Simon Lee Philips as Detective Sergeant Trotter. McCooyer takes Christopher Wren to the outer limits of absurd in a crowd pleasing performance. In contrast, Tony DeSantis underplays his Mr. Parvacini with equal success. The cast is a collective and each performance affects the other. Individual choices have to be clear otherwise characters can get lost. This created the uneven sense of the production. Characters were strong but sometimes not in relation to one another.
To close, director Ulrich brings a classic, strong production of a theatre favourite with surprising delights to Aquarius. Agatha Christie wrote the Mousetrap as a gift for her grandson, but in an odd way it has also become a gift for a life time of theatre patrons. Don’t miss this version of her gift. It’s wrapped differently every time, but it’s always a surprise. V
Until Oct. 12.
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