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10 things you didn’t know about The Mousetrap

Hira Desai

By Hira Desai First Published 16 July 2020, Last Updated 23 April 2021

Agatha Christie’s world-famous whodunnit The Mousetrap will be reopening at St. Martin’s Theatre on 17 May and we can’t contain our excitement.

Having opened in the West End on 25 November 1952, the play is the longest-running in the world! Since it’s opening, the record-smashing show has seen 28,000+ performances 10,000,000+ tickets sold, and 500+ tons of ice creams devoured.

We don’t want to give away too much for those who are yet to see it but the iconic play tells the story of its central characters who are gathered together in a remote corner of the countryside when they discover there is a murderer in their midst. In true murder mystery style, the question is: who did it?

Keeping with the detective theme, we’ve been doing some of our own investigating! Here are 10 things you didn’t know about The Mousetrap.

 

1. The show was written as a birthday gift for Queen Mary

Believe it or not, The Mousetrap was originally written as a 20-minute radio drama for Queen Mary as an 80th birthday gift, following Queen Mary’s request for a new radio play by Agatha. Entitled Three Blind Mice, the radio drama was rewritten for the stage five years later when it premiered at the Theatre Royal, Nottingham. So there ya have it, a play written from one Queen to another!

 

2. One of the original cast members (and props) is still in every show 

We don’t want to give away any spoilers, but the late Deryck Guyler who was part of The Mousetrap since it’s first West End show, is still part of every performance to this day on! If you’re scratching your head and asking yourselves how, it is in the form of a pre-recorded voice of a newsreader. You’ll also be surprised to know that the clock above the fireplace in the main hall has still survived from the opening night and remains a crucial prop night after night!

 

3. Two prisoners escaped during a special performance at a prison in March 1959

The cast of The Mousetrap gave a special performance at Wormwood Scrubs Prison on Sunday 15 March 1959. During the performance, two prisoners escaped and we’ve got ourselves another case to solve!

The cast of The Mousetrap armed with various props for a special performance on Sunday 15th March 1959. Photo credit: The Mousetrap

 

4. Since it opened on 25th November 1952, over 460 actors and actresses have appeared in the play.

The famous whodunnit has had more than 400 actors pass through its doors since 1952, some of whom are household names! These include British politician Richard Attenborough and his wife Sheila Sim, as well as Hugh Bonneville, Miranda Hart, Sir Patrick Stewart, and Tamsin Grieg who performed in the play’s 60th anniversary’s one-off all-star performance.

The show has even attracted a number of notable members including Sir Winston Churchill, Quentin Tarantino and Queen Elizabeth II. If it’s good enough for a Queen, it sure is good enough for us!

 

5. During The Mousetrap’s London run, cast members have set a number of records

David Raven is noted in the Guinness Book of Records as the Most Durable Actor, an accolade he gained after giving 4,575 performances as Major Metcalfe, and Nancy Seabrooke spent a record-breaking 15 years working as an understudy on The Mousetrap. Who’d have known?

 

6. The Mousetrap meets the Royals in November 2002

To celebrate the 50th anniversary, HM the Queen and HRH The Duke of Edinburgh attended a Gala performance on the 25th of November 2002. Now that’s one for the books!

Mousetrap meets HM the Queen and HRH The Duke of Edinburgh, November 2002. Photo credit: The Mousetrap

 

7. There are two film versions (not in English language)

The British murder mystery has been adapted into Russian and Bengali films. It’s reported that the Russian director Samson Samsonov’s 1990 adaptation, Myshelovka (Mousetrap), follows the script closely. Meanwhile, Chupi Chupi Aashey (Silently He Comes) a 1960 film by Premendra Mitra, takes its inspiration from Agatha’s original radio play. We’re definitely keeping our crossed for English language version in the future!

 

8. Noel Coward sent a telegram to congratulate Agatha on the success of the play

A letter written by legendary playwright Noel Coward in 1957 was discovered in an antique piece of furniture in 2011. The telegram sent congratulations to Agatha after The Mousetrap knocked Noel’s Blithe Spirit off the top spot, officially taking over the title as the longest-running play in the West End – a record which it still holds today!

The telegram read: “Much as it pains me, I really must congratulate you on The Mousetrap breaking the long-run record. All my good wishes. Noel Coward”.

 

9. The Mousetrap played to packed houses for two weeks in Shanghai in 2010

In 2010, the cast of The Mousetrap played to packed houses for two weeks in the Lyceum Theatre in Shanghai. Subtitles in Chinese ran on either side of the stage throughout the performance. It has been reported that Agatha Christie is ‘bigger than Shakespeare’ in China, and her plays are performed regularly in Chinese, but this was the first time a British Company had been invited

Mousetrap in Shanghai, 2010. Photo credit: The Mousetrap

 

10. Every audience member becomes a partner in crime 

It’s no secret that The Mousetrap’s ending is one of the most protected in Theatreland. At the end of each performance, audience members are asked to take a pledge to become a partner in crime and in doing so, they promise to keep the identity of the murderer “locked” in their hearts.

 

Fancy yourself a detective or want to become a partner in crime? Treat yourself!

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st martin's theatre the mousetrap

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