It isn’t often that a theatre audience takes direction from the stage – and even rarer that they go along with what they’re told. There’s always some wag willing to take on the role of spoil sport.
But for the past 60 years audiences have become “partners in crime” with the cast in keeping secret the identity of the killer in Agatha Christie’s now legendary thriller The Mousetrap.
To celebrate the drama’s diamond anniversary – the only play ever written to be performed continuously for 60 years - the management is taking it on the road and this week this gem of a show pitched up at Milton Keynes Theatre for a week of wholesome whodunitry.
The vintage thriller has a habit of polarising an audience depending on whether you’re a fan of the genre. I must say I was gripped – aided and abetted by a cracking cast of former soap stars who showed that there was more to them than past gigs in Corrie, The Bill, EastEnders, Holby, Downton and Doctors.
These familiar, predominantly young, faces were just what the drama needed – plus a director (Ian Watt-Smith) who was determined to breath new life into the old girl and a sumptuous set that oozed period charm.
There is nothing fusty about this production of Christie’s timeless murder-mystery. It cleverly blends intrigue and suspense with moments of comedy.
There are bluffs and double bluffs, plus red herrings scattered about, and you start taking bets with your friends and fellow theatre-goers about who has committed the crime (in this case a double murder).
Far from being a museum piece it is thoroughly entertaining and no wonder MKT is pretty much sold out for the entire week.
There are convincing performances from the entire cast - Thomas Howes, Karl Howman, Bruno Langley, Steven France, Graham Seed, Jemma Walker, Jan Walters and Clare Wilkie – and they all deserve credit for its success.
The story is much like a game of Cluedo. A group of guests gather in an isolated hotel where they are snowed in with a murderer. Who is it and why are they there?
The story takes on a controversial storyline midway through when the unsavoury subject of child abuse is thrown into the mix.
I’m not going to spoil the ending suffice to say that I didn’t see it coming.
When the cast takes its curtain call they make an announcement asking the audience not to give the game away. Remarkably, after 60 years in London’s West End, it’s still not common knowledge. Anyone who does blab should be barred for life from the venue.
The Mousetrap runs until Saturday. Try and get tickets it you can. Call the box office 0844 871 7652 or go online www.atgticket.com/miltonkeynes