The Mousetrap, the world’s longest-running play, just celebrated its 60th anniversary. Agatha Christie’s knackered old whodunnit has been dulling the senses of audiences for longer than I’ve been alive, and just hit its 25,000th soporific performance.
The eyelid-dropping warhorse was past its sell-by date long before it even opened, a time when Francis Durbridge thrillers still played on the ends of piers, and harks back to a time when the lady of the house came in through the French windows with a bunch of daffodils and spent the next half hour arranging them while complaining about the servants.
Welcome to a world where the sun never sets on the British Empire and the vicar and the family doctor stop by for a snifter, where all the men wear jumpers and people listen to the radio, a sort of Daily Express fantasy-land for people who secretly don’t like Darkies or Poofs. Perhaps that’s over-egging it – The Mousetrap is simply a not-terribly-good play that for some peculiar reason came to represent ‘Englishness’ to the world, like policemen’s helmets and guardsmen.
I often have to wade through hordes of bemused-looking Chinese people coming out of the theatre having had no idea what they just saw or why, other than because it was part of the itinerary along with Harrods, Big Ben and being ripped off in Camden Market.
Christie’s play has been silting up the lovely old St Martin’s Theatre for so long that I’ve never seen inside the place. And this year it’s being seen in 60 international touring productions as well as all over the British Isles. So surely, once everyone has had a chance to slumber through it, they could let the poor old thing pass away in the night and replace it with something audiences actually want to see?
Even another, better, Christie like ‘Witness For The Prosecution’ would be preferable. Or maybe Cirque Du Soleil could reinterpret it and have the cast come in on bungee ropes. Anything – anything – rather than leaving it there to stink up a fine old building for any longer.