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BWW Review: THE MOUSETRAP at The Pumphouse, Takapuna

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Expertly directed with precision, and creative flair, by Catherine Boniface.

BWW Review: THE MOUSETRAP at The Pumphouse, Takapuna

Are all our guests going to be odd?

WHODUNNIT!

What would you expect from a classic murder mystery, written in 1952 that ran in London's West End continuously until 16 March 2020? And even then the stage performances were only discontinued due to the COVID-19 pandemic! Aren't you just a little curious about this phenomenon?

Expertly directed with precision, and creative flair, by Catherine Boniface, this is an entirely engaging production which immediately draws the audience in. From then, you are trapped in the cat and mouse game, and as blind as the three blind mice. The three act play of over two and a half hours never loses its energy and is filled with well-shaped and dynamic dramatic tension and convincing characterisation. Often unexpectedly (but delightfully) the drama is punctuated with well-timed comic relief. Each and every scene is visually adept, with expert attention to internalised physicality and detail, and all the action (and actors) are audience-focused. The play is creatively lit (Anton Reinauer and Jeff Philp) and superbly costumed (Lyn Carlisle).

Sumptuously set (Catherine Boniface) in Monkswell Manor, Mollie and Giles Ralston are preparing for the arrival of their house guests, none of whom they have ever met before. Whodunnits create intrigue and mystery around each and every character - so as to ensnare your mind. This aspect was superbly captured by each and every one of the actors, who never let their physicality and focus lapse for a second. They are all suitably "odd" and mysterious - none of them straightforward in any way!

Mollie Ralston (Adele Louise Tunnicliff) is credibly endearing, a determined, caring, pretty woman in her twenties. Having inherited Monkswell Manor from her aunt, she has decided to turn it into a guest house rather than sell it. We don't want anything to happen to her. There is some mystery in her past - we will wait til the end of Act 3 to find out about that!

Giles Ralston, (James Calverley), Mollie's handsome husband of exactly one year, is played convincingly - he is less enamoured of the lifestyle choice, but it's clear he loves his wife. The two married only three weeks after meeting, so his past remains a mystery. Facial expression is a strength. We know exactly what he's thinking at all times.

Even whilst fretting over the effect the blizzard raising outside, and barely noticing the news reports that there has been a murder in the area, the rather odd and bizarre guests arrive-including a Mr. Paravicini, who was not invited but who seeks refuge after car trouble.

There's artistic and oddly quirky, unkempt Christopher Wren, (Thomas Campbell) who says he's an architect - who begins as confident but who becomes anxious and nervous. The audience appreciates the touches of humour he initiates on his arrival. There's Mrs. Boyle, (Michelle Smith) - a former magistrate, middle-aged, querulous and demanding. We are not meant to like her. There's Leslie Casewell, (Hannah Rice) a twenty-four-year-old who looks older. Good moments of focus (especially in silences) from this actress. With her masculine appearance, bearing, and voice, and a coat and scarf matching those worn by the murderer, she is highly suspect, especially as she refuses to reveal her motive for returning from Majorca to England. There's Major Metcalf, (Albie Smith) a middle-aged man with a military bearing. Is he all he appears to be?

Known for her gift of deception, Christie employs a range of tricks to deceive and manipulate her characters - and her audiences. In the plot of The Mousetrap we see the cunning, clever trail of false clues, and a wealth of trickery. This, perhaps begins with the arrival of the outrageous and dramatic Mr. Paravicini, (Ben Plummer). He is dark, foreign, and moustached. He says "he is the mystery man" who completes the picture. There is true fun in this trickster, superbly captured by Ben Plummer. Every possible nuance was there for the audience to appreciate.

The next day, a police officer, Sergeant Trotter, (Zane Fleming) arrives on skis. This is a hilarious moment entirely appreciated by the audience. Zane Fleming brings this pivotal character to life (a second trickster) with well-executed, motivated, psychological truth. Excellent changes of pace and good dramatic tension are created as a result. A series of connections between the murder and Monkswell Manor is revealed. One by one, as the guests are questioned, suspicions and tensions rise. In a Whodunnit, there's no reason to wait and tease your audience. Kill that poor victim off. And so Christie does!

A Whodunnit pits someone in a position to solve the crime against the criminal's efforts to get away with it or at least cover his or her tracks. The mystery, by definition, means the audience must solve a series of clues or kind of puzzle to discover "whodunnit." That's its attraction so - as per tradition, at the conclusion of The Mousetrap, the audience is asked not to reveal the details of the play's ending to anyone outside the theatre. And thus - this reviewer - will not!

This is an outstanding production. You will be disappointed if you don't go and see it. DON'T MISS IT. It runs July 29 - August 8, 2021 at The Pumphouse, Takapuna. Bookings 09 489 8360 or www.pumphouse.co.nz.


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