Get clued up on The Mousetrap
Millions have seen it but what do you know about The Mousetrap? Find out more about the world’s longest-running play before it comes to The Grand on Tue 29 August 2023.
Written by Ellen Carnazza
The Mousetrap Trivia
When The Mousetrap opened on 25 November 1952, it was only seven years since Hitler died. Winston Churchill was Prime Minister, Harry Truman was President of the United States, and Stalin was ruler of Russia. There was fighting in Korea, and Princess Elizabeth began her long reign as Queen. The last tram ran in London, television programmes ended at 10.30pm, and the entire TV listings only occupied three and a half lines.
Before it first opened in London, The Mousetrap visited Leeds Grand Theatre on its pre-West End tour.
The Mousetrap began life in 1947 as a radio play called Three Blind Mice, which was written at the request of the BBC for Queen Mary’s 80th birthday.
The play was loosely based on the real-life death of Dennis O’Neill, a 12-year-old boy who died while in the care of a Shropshire farmer and his wife in 1945. The trial and committal of his foster parents shocked the country, and inspired the author in her writing of the work.
The Mousetrap became the world’s longest running production on 12 April 1958, exceeding the run of Chu-Chin-Chow, on its 2,239th performance.
Since it opened, over 460 actors and actresses have appeared in the play with Richard Attenborough and his wife Sheila Sim being the first performers to take on the roles of Detective Sergeant Trotter and Mollie Ralston in the West End.
In her autobiography, Agatha Christie said that she initially thought The Mousetrap would only run for a maximum of eight months. The show is now in its 70th year.
The show has now been presented in 27 languages in more than 50 countries.
In November 2012 Agatha Christie’s grandson, Mathew Prichard, welcomed the audience to the Diamond Jubilee celebratory evening, which was also the 25,000th performance. Phyllida Lloyd directed this one-off gala performance starring Julie Walters, Patrick Stewart, Iain Glen, Tamsin Greig, Nicholas Farrell, Hugh Bonneville and Miranda Hart. All of the proceeds from the night were donated to Mousetrap Theatre Projects, the leading theatre education charity seed-funded by the play.
Agatha Christie gave her grandson, Mathew Prichard, the royalties from The Mousetrap for his ninth birthday. In recent years he has donated them to the benefit of charities for the arts and other causes especially in Wales.
The Mousetrap has four entries in the Guinness Book of Records, including the ‘longest continuous run of any show in the world’; ‘most durable’ actor (David Raven, who played Major Metcalf for 4,575 performances from 22 July 1957 until 23 November 1968); and ‘longest serving understudy’ (Nancy Seabrooke, who stood by as Mrs Boyle 6,240 times until 12 March 1994, and actually did so 72 times).
In 2010, Wikipedia agreed to compromise on its policy of presenting information after fans and Christie’s family petitioned the website to take down a spoiler that revealed the identity of the murderer. As a result, the final twist remains in the article, but is set apart from the rest of the synopsis under the large bold heading ‘Identity of the murderer’.
One of the original cast members (and props) is still in every show. The late Deryck Guyler provided the pre-recorded voice of the newsreader in the first act and the same recording is still used today. In the West End productions, the clock above the fireplace in the main hall has still survived from the opening night and remains a crucial prop night after night!
In March 1956, Peter Saunders, the original producer of The Mousetrap and many other Agatha Christie plays, sold the film rights, but shrewdly added the proviso that the film could not be released until six months after the end of the West End run. The film has yet to be made.
Theatre for All
At Leeds Heritage Theatres, we believe that the arts and culture have the power to change lives, improve well-being, and remind us of what connects us as humans.
We believe that theatre is for all.
With your help, we hope to increase and improve our Access performances offering for audience members with visual impairments or who are D/deaf or hard of hearing. Thank you.
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