“There has to be a beginning for everything, hasn’t there?”
Mollie Ralston’s line, spoken by actor Vanessa Leticia Jetté, resonates for Theatre Calgary, which this fall opened its 56th season with The Mousetrap, written by Agatha Christie. The famous murder mystery opened in Calgary on September 15 — which was also Christie’s birthday.
This classic continues to draw in audiences across the world since its debut in London’s West End in 1952. In fact, The Mousetrap has been continuously running in London for 71 years. Theatre Calgary’s particular production has sparked lots of interest with a delightful company of actors, including Kit Benz, Matthew Mooney, Vanessa Leticia Jetté, Mike Tan, Tyrell Crews, Natascha Girgis, Christian Goutsis, and Robert Klein, all of whom appear in The Mousetrap under the direction of Craig Hall, making his Theatre Calgary debut after a stint as the artistic director of Vertigo Theatre.
If you’re unfamiliar with this classic tale, it follows an unlikely bunch thrown together in an isolated manor. The stakes soon become heightened when the group discovers there is a murderer among them — classic Christie.
Beyond the air of mystery, an engaging feature of this production was watching the dysfunctional relationships among the characters play out. The leading couple, Giles and Mollie Ralston, played by Jetté and Tan respectively, welcome six strangers to stay in their newly running hotel, Monkswell Manor. As chaos erupts and mistrust spreads among the residents, Mollie and Giles’ relationship is also tested.
In an interview, Tan revealed that he and Jetté had been in previous productions together (including murder mysteries like The Extractionist and Sherlock Holmes), and so they were no mystery to each other, nor to the genre, when they embarked on The Mousetrap. When asked about the development of the Ralstons’ relationship, Tan thoughtfully reflected on the need for “recovery and reconnection.” He went on to reveal that placing the play in its historical context of a post-World War II existence helped shape his character’s connection to Jetté’s Mollie.
“For Giles, being alone and then meeting somebody that you feel like you can absolutely be yourself and be at home with, even though you might not know each other — that feeling is clear to me,” he said. I had never seen the play before, and so was eager to discover these characters and uncover the mystery.
While paying close attention to catch possible clues, it was also difficult for me not to get lost in the comical and touching moments formed between the residents. Based on the reactions I witnessed in the audience, the chemistry among this talented cast certainly impressed the Calgary crowd.
Perhaps as alluring as the cast are the wondrous design elements of this production. The entrancing lighting design, by Beth Kates, feels like an additional character as it commands attention and makes it feel as if we are guests in this manor. Samples of the gorgeous costume pieces by Deitra Kalyn, are also framed and displayed in the halls of the theatre for audiences to admire. The set, designed by Scott Reid, transports us right into a 1950s manor and had audience members puzzling at the possibility of entrances and exits.
“There are so many incredible details on set that it would be easy to get lost in them, there’s even cobwebs in the chandelier!,” said Tan. When he let me in on this detail, I couldn’t help but smile when I later spotted a few people approaching the set at the end of the show, pointing at that very same chandelier.
The Mousetrap continues to live up to its reputation for excitement as spectators are playfully instructed every night to keep the mystery alive for the following audiences to come. During intermission, the intrigue persisted as audiences were itching to solve the mystery, prior to the second act. Outside the halls of the Max Bell Theatre, you can catch glimpses of conversations from spectators listing their prime suspects and even hear gasps from those being reminded of details they missed in the first act. This kind of buzz could certainly be the reason why Agatha Christie’s The Mousetrap maintains its reputation as the longest running play in the world.
The Mousetrap runs at Theatre Calgary until October 8. You can learn more about the production here.