Watching a performance in West End could be a touristy thing to do in London. But when you’re into arts and culture and you find yourself in one of the world’s culture capitals, what can you do? With so many exciting musicals, plays, and dances to choose from, I could easily spend my time hopping from one theatre to another during my entire stay. However, I decided to see only one performance, and without any second thought it was Agatha Christie’s The Mousetrap. I’m not a big fan of Christie but I’ve enjoyed reading some of her books and watching a couple of the film adaptations. I first learned about The Mousetrap in an English class at school and had since resolved to see the play if I happened to visit London. Many years later, my teenage dream finally came true. Here I’m sharing some useful information if you’re interested in watching the world’s longest running play.
The Mousetrap premiered on 6 October 1952 at the Theatre Royal in Nottingham. It was then staged at several English theatres before finally settling in London in late November 1952. The Ambassadors Theatre in the West End housed the play for more than 21 years before it moved next door to St Martin’s Theatre until today.
A murder mystery play, it is set at a newly opened guesthouse. The guests, many check-in to the property in good spirits, start to behave suspiciously after one of them is mysteriously murdered and a snowstorm cuts them off from the outside world. They begin to suspect one another. Even the Ralston couple who runs the guesthouse appears to hide something from each other. Everybody fears another murder is on the way.
But the best known aspect of The Mousetrap could be the tradition of secrecy. At the end of the show audience are asked not to reveal the identity of the murderer. With the play having run for nearly 65 years, surely so many people have known which character is the murderer. But, after all, that what makes The Mousetrap, The Mousetrap. 😀 And apparently that’s one factor that has kept the play running all these years.
The current cast The Mousetrap (as of April 2017) in the order of appearance.
Mollie Ralston: Kirsten Hazel Smith
Giles Ralston: Tom Rooke
Christopher Wren: Simon Hein
Mrs Boyle: Karen Archer
Major Metcalf: Christopher Knott
Miss Casewell: Hannah Lee
Mr Paravicini: Simon Roberts
Detective-Sergeant Trotter: Jamie Hutchins
Directed by Hugh Ross
St Martin’s Theatre
West Street, London WC2H 9NZ
St Martin’s Theatre has been home to The Mousetrap since March 1974. Unlike some other West End’s famous venues such as Palace Theatre (Harry Potter and the Cursed Child) and Queen’s Theatre (Les Misérables), it’s located off the main street so it could be a bit tricky to find. The nearest Tube station is Leicester Square on the Northern and Piccadilly Lines. Keep on the right side of Charing Cross Road with the Hippodrome Casino across the street on your left. Turn right to Litchfield Street on the second intersection (third, if you exit the Tube station next to Wyndham’s Theatre) where a Subway outlet stands right on the corner. You won’t miss it. Just hope the sandwich shop will stay there for a very long time. You’ll immediately see St Martin’s Theatre at the end of the street.
Duration: 2 hours 15 minutes, including 1 intermission
No shows on Sundays.
Ticket prices range from GBP 17.50 to GBP 66.00 for weekday shows and from GBP 18.50 to GBP 67.50 on Saturdays. They can be bought online or from the box office inside Ambassadors Theatre just next door. Several reviews say the online ticketing system can be troublesome (failed transactions and the like) and that it’s just possible to get tickets at the theatre on the show day. I purchased mine at the Ambassadors Theatre just 4 hours before the show and seats were still available. The staff will show you the seating map (that also shows the price range) and offer the best possible seat on a medium-priced ticket, but you can always ask if there’s still any seat available in a cheaper or, if you prefer, more expensive zone. Checking the latest seat availability online before getting to the box office also helps.
If you’re not that desperate, perhaps you can still get a ticket in the last minutes. I noticed a staffed box office in the foyer of St Martin’s Theatre after the doors were open, an hour before the show started.
At the theatre
Don’t forget to take picture of the performance counter next to a small souvenir booth in the foyer. I happened to see the 26,853rd performance (yes, that’s twenty-six thousand!) on 15 April 2017 matinée.
Ladies’ toilet can be crowded before the show starts. (That’s always our, women’s, problem!) But instead of queuing for the ground floor’s toilet, if you don’t have problems going up and down the stairs, there’s one other to the left down the stairs after you get through the door leading to the toilets.
Most importantly for this particular play, do not tell anybody who the murderer is because, as the actor tells us, ‘You’re now part of the crime.’ 😀
(If you haven’t seen the play and hate spoilers, stay away from Wikipedia!)