I'm referring to THE MOUSETRAP, of course, which, if its run hadn’t been interrupted by the West End’s Covid shut-down, would have celebrated its 30,000th consecutive performance in 2024.
Its author, the queen of crime thrillers, Agatha Christie, would have been amazed at her play’s long running success. In her autobiography she recalls a conversation that she had with the play’s first producer, Peter Saunders. "Fourteen months I am going to give it", Saunders said. "It won't run that long,” she replied. “Eight months perhaps. Yes, I think eight months."
But its world record breaking run and the stats surrounding that aren’t the only big surprises about THE MOUSE TRAP.
The biggest surprise for me, when I saw it 10 years ago, is that it’s actually rather good! I had previously dismissed it as heritage theatre for tourists as it presents the English in the way that overseas visitors like to see us - everyone elegantly dressed and emotionally repressed in a wood panelled drawing room and at the mercy of a tastefully ingenious murderer who will be conclusively unmasked on schedule. And of course it is all those things, and very enjoyably so, but I think it also makes some very interesting points when it asks us to consider how much we actually know about our partners, in whom we place so much trust.
Then there’s the big surprise that its producer Adam Spiegel sprang on us recently. THE MOUSE TRAP is to reopen on 23 October as the West End’s first, major, socially distanced production.
It means that he’ll have to remove a lot of seats to ensure groups can sit sufficiently far away from each other to be socially distanced. Who knows how this makes any financial sense, particularly with no tourists in town.
But Spiegel insists it can be done. “We are very fortunate with THE MOUSETRAP" he says, "that, with the help of our stakeholders, we are able to adapt our economic model to be able to reopen. Whilst this cannot be a long-term exercise, we believe it is a crucial first step in restoring live theatre to the London landscape.”
Very commendable. Let’s hope enough native Londoners are brave and intrigued enough to book tickets.
If you do, I promise you a fast moving, stylish and thought provoking thriller.
You’ll also have the extraordinary experience of making your way through the ghost town that is currently the West End to become one its first post-lockdown audience members!