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The Mousetrap at Cambridge Corn Exchange ‘dazzling, gripping and fun’

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This production of The Mousetrap absolutely fizzes. The performances are funny – the characterisation is gorgeous right from beginning to the end.

In its 70th year, you might think that the play would be rather stale by now and the performances a bit hammy. But none of that, it’s dazzling, gripping and such fun. Great attention has been paid to the mannerisms, the diction – and the costumes of 1952.

We hear of the social dislocation after the chaos of the Second World War. Young couples, some now without living parents, marry in haste.

We are told that Mollie and Giles Ralston, (a beautifully enunciated Rachel Dawson and Michael Lyle) the couple running the country guesthouse where the action takes place, have married after knowing each other only six weeks. This is their first “opening night”. They have no idea who their guests are.

They are reassured about letting these strangers into their home because after all “they all have ration books”.

The couple have inherited the property and are determined to make a go of it. It’s deep midwinter, the guests arrive shaking the snow off their hats and coats, complaining that their taxis refused to take them up the drive.

One, the flamboyant Italian, Mr Paravincini (a masterful performance from Steven Elliott, who also directs) says his car has overturned. His is the first surprise arrival.

The second, appearing first at a window, having arrived on skis, is Detective Sergeant Trotter, played with gusto by Garyn Williams, your boy made good from London.

The guests all have wonderfully different characters, too well observed ever to be parodies. Shaun McCourt as the fey Christopher Wren gives an engaging version of slightly camp.

Michael Lyle as Giles Ralston

Michael Lyle as Giles Ralston

Catherine Shipton is spot on as the tweedy retired magistrate, despairing about the declining standards of the day. She runs her finger along the fireplace to test for dust, which my aunt, a midwife born in 1911 who had a similarly starched attitude, did whenever she visited my mother’s house.

Todd Carty is brilliant as Major Metcalf, the spirited old soldier – and an absolute joy is Leigh Lothian as the stern-faced, chilled to the bone Miss Casewell, stiff as a board whose demeanour – as she refuses to engage with anyone – is a delight. She has been lifted straight out the 1950s.

I loved the way when ordered to sit down by the police officer, she lowers herself, very gingerly to just graze the arm of the sofa.

The Mousetrap is at Cambridge Corn Exchange until Saturday, September 9, then touring for the rest of the year, including Northampton, Peterborough, and King’s Lynn. PHOTOS: Matt Crockett

The Mousetrap is at Cambridge Corn Exchange until Saturday, September 9, then touring for the rest of the year, including Northampton, Peterborough, and King’s Lynn. PHOTOS: Matt Crockett

For seven decades, the audience has been asked, as the cast take their bow, not to tell who dunnit.

We happy theatregoers have kept to that. (In fact, having seen it in the West End over 30 years ago, I had by now forgotten). This is such a great show that recommending it to friends who would want to spoil the fun.

Directed by Ian Talbot and Denise Silvey, this is a sparkling, vibrant production with immaculate performances. I loved every moment.

The Mousetrap is at Cambridge Corn Exchange until Saturday, September 9, then touring for the rest of the year, including Northampton, Peterborough, and King’s Lynn.

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