Matchless Murder Mystery
The greatest whodunit of the last century comes to KL for its Diamond Jubilee
Posted Monday, 26/08/2013 at 7:12 AM
The greatest whodunit of the last century comes to KL for its Diamond Jubilee

As Detective Sergeant Trotter carefully sets his trap, gathering together all six surviving individuals and suspects retained in brooding Monkswell Manor, the murderer at this point could be anyone. Suspicion has fallen on each of the guests as they are scrutinised one by one, and it comes down to the final scene when the big reveal and twistending uncovers the killer.

Astonishing Statistics
The culmination of The Mousetrap, written by Queen of Crime Agatha Christie, is one of the most renowned in theatrical history; a secret that has been kept under wraps since the play opened in the West End of London in 1952. Now, 60 years later, the hugely entertaining and engrossing play stands as the longest running show of any in the world, including being the West End’s longest running theatre production. An incredible 26,000 performances have taken place in London alone (that’s eight shows, six nights a week for 60 years!), with no fewer than 382 actors appearing in the play. There is rarely a night that goes by without a performance somewhere in the world.

Exclusive Malaysian Staging
To mark the Diamond Jubilee, productions of The Mousetrap are being unrolled across every continent in a plethora of languages, and representing Southeast Asia is Kuala Lumpur, where the British Theatre Playhouse, in collaboration with Milestone Production, are staging the play at the Auditorium of the Dewan Bandaraya Kuala Lumpur. The Playhouse, run by prominent actor John Faulkner and his Malaysian-born wife, Cecilia Leong-Faulkner, are flying down eight actors from London - six of whom have played in the West End production - and Denise Silvey from Mousetrap Productions Ltd as Production Director.

Secret of Success
Faulkner himself is a veteran of the show, having played the part of Giles Ralston, proprietor of Monkswell Manor, in the 32nd year of its run in the West End, and now returns as the older but more distinguished Major Metcalf. When asked about the secret of its success and sheer longevity, Faulkner commented that “It’s lasted because people love that cut-off, on-you-own, isolated feeling, where a group of slightly eccentric people are put together in a situation of some charm, in this case Monkswell Manor, but also where someone, amongst them, is a murderer. People wish to look back on such a time, citing stories such as Death on the Nile or Witness for the Prosecution, where these plays were set in a time of enormous charm and eccentricity. And that’s why The Mousetrap has become one of the most famous plays in the world”.

The Queen of Crime
It’s little wonder then that Agatha Christie, who became a Dame of the British Empire in 1972, is one of the most successful authors and playwrights in history. You might think that a gross exaggeration, but in fact, in book sales alone, she stands behind only Shakespeare and The Bible. Her success in the West End is unprecedented, at one point having run three of her plays simultaneously, a feat that has never been matched by any other woman playwright.

Persistent Consistency
Part of the reason, also, why the play has persisted with such triumph is due to the strict code of conduct that has been applied to its productions. Costumes and settings have remained completely unchanged, points which Mathew Pritchard - the grandson of Christie who owns the rights to the Agatha Christie estate - has dedicated his life to fiercely enforcing. The highly secretive twist ending has been kept as such with great effort, proving ever more difficult with the advent of the Internet and other forms of communication. Traditionally, at the end of each performance, the lead actor appears on stage and delivers a speech, asking the audience to promise not to disclose the twist. It seems this method has proven effective over the years and will hopefully continue to do so.

Why No Movie?
Originally written for the late Queen Mary as a gift for her eightieth birthday, Christie never could have imagined that the story would become one of the greatest murder-mysteries ever written, spanning 60 years of performances and still counting. But if you’re looking for a movie of The Mousetrap, you can stop right there. Dame Agatha left explicit instructions that no movie production of the play be allowed until six months after the West End production closed. There may never be a movie at this rate. The only way you’ll see this story is to experience it live on stage, and for once, you won’t have to fly to London to do that.

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