Working out just whodunit

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“THE play’s the thing wherein I’ll catch the conscience of the king,” says Hamlet of the little plays he calls “The Mousetrap.”

There’s another “Mousetrap” play, almost as famous as “Hamlet”, on account of having been performed over 24,000 times since 1952.
Yes, the professional production of the Agatha Christie hit is coming to town as part of an Australia-wide 60th anniversary tour, but you’d better book quickly. When it opened in Sydney, 90 per cent of all tickets were already sold.

“CityNews” knows “whodunit”, but we’re not going to spoil it for readers. Actors Robert Alexander and Travis Cotton are thrilled to be in work until November and there are hints the show may run on even longer. “We may die in it,” Alexander adds darkly.

He plays the eccentric Mr Paravicini, the fake-seeming visitor to the snowbound Monkswell Manor of the drama and says: “The Mousetrap has an absolutely inherent style… storytelling is paramount and the thrill with Christie has always been to use your deductive powers.”

To Alexander there is no mystery as to why this play has run for 60 years. But it’s not so easy playing it.
“We have to lay the clues precisely…if we don’t do that clearly, we will lose our way,” he says.  And Paravicini must not be seen as a ham.

Cotton plays an equally eccentric character, a young man with the fake name, Christopher Wren. He would have seemed odd to a ‘50s audience, but to camp him up would have been unthinkable. So when Wren comments that the policeman is “a very attractive man”, it is important for Cotton to keep the tone normal.

“Play it straight,” the actors chime.

The language, too, is an enjoyable feature for the actors that also helps evoke a bygone era. Words like “shan’t,” “mayn’t,” “Japs” and “bogus” are rarely used these days.

Sir Stephen Waley-Cohen, the play’s UK producer and a former finance journalist, has popped in on the Sydney opening to give the cast a few points. After all, as he says: “I do know the play better than most people.”

“Play it straight,” he warns sternly, “just tell the story.”

“The Mousetrap”, The Playhouse, August 1-9, bookings to 6275 2700 or

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Helen Musa
“CityNews” arts editor

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