The next book I will be talking about from my Top Pick of Ten is a play by Agatha Christie. Many of you probably already know this; it is the longest running play in the world. In fact, when I write this article the St. Martin’s Theatre, West Street, London is currently taking bookings for shows till 27th June 2015.
“The Mousetrap is celebrating the 62nd year of a record breaking run during which over 25,000 performances have been given. It is quite simply a great piece of theatrical history because of what it is, a whodunit written by the greatest crime writer of all time.”
The play premiered at the Ambassadors theater in 1952 and played there for 22 years, before moving next door to the St Martin’s theater where it has played ever since. It celebrated its 60th year in 2012.
I am a die-hard Agatha Christie fan and till about a decade back I was immersed in her Poirot and Mrs. Marple stories & novels, reading anything and everything I could lay my hands upon from the school library, the British Council Library, US Consulate Library, friends and family. Before I read the play in 2007, I had read a short story collection by Christie, Three Blind Mice and Other Short stories. While reading The Mousetrap I was confused as the shadow of the earlier story. It took me long to discover that The Mousetrap is actually based on the short story Three Blind Mice, written by Christie. The play was renamed later. There is a bit of trivia which I learnt from Wikipedia, behind the naming of the play. It says, “The suggestion to call it The Mousetrap came from Christie’s son-in-law, Anthony Hicks. In Shakespeare’s play Hamlet, “The Mousetrap” is Hamlet’s answer to Claudius’s inquiry about the name of the play whose prologue and first scene the court has just observed (III, ii). The play is actually The Murder of Gonzago, but Hamlet answers metaphorically, since “the play’s the thing” in which he intends to “catch the conscience of the king.”
Enough on trivia about the play, and when I say this, I also request any interested reader to visit Wikipedia for more tidbits. But this is my review of the play which I have never watched only read and my reason (if I can verbalize them) for this being the top ten on my list. Just don’t read the **spoiler** sprung by Wikipedia about the twist ending of the play. Instead, go read the book.
I will come back to the Twist ending or plot twist of the play which makes it so enjoyable. I love whodunits, primarily because it’s like a game where the reader participates like a detective himself/herself and takes a stab ( pardon the pun) at guessing who is the murderer. And let’s just say Christie makes a fool of me every time. The Mousetrap is no exception.
For anyone else the play might be reminiscent of everything that is staid, stagnant and plain boring but for me the play is full of drama and mystery. You see while reading this play I am constantly reminded of the Bollywood movies in 1980’s and 1990’s where the present day action was pre-destined because of some incident that happened a generation ago. Christie’s play works on a similar theme, but this being a whodunit; I am at a loss to describe the play, without spoilers. The plot of the play is what makes it innovative to me. Although many critics find it stultifying and believe that having been adapted from a short story, the play falls short of the need of action to be accepted as good theater.
Reading the play especially in the light of having read Three Blind Mice, I feel a goose bump as the nursery rhyme of the same name hovers in my head. The intricacy of intrigue among the characters in the play makes it difficult to be the all-knowing detective. There is however, one shortcoming that is perhaps the result of the twist ending, the reader of the play has no history of the characters to fall back on and it is in the history that the answer lies hidden.
Pardon my comparison with Bollywood movies, but strangely I am willing to dub this work of Christie as one of those formula plots that work well with the audience, to put them in awe and leave them surprised. Be it a formula, the plot twist works well according to me in view of the atmosphere and setting of the play. In a room full of strangers where the reader does not know who is real and who is playing a part, who is telling the truth and who is making up stories, it is easy to imagine a convoluted explanation of the murder that remains unknown to the reader till the final Act revelation.
The play is essentially very simplistic in nature; it has a lot of dialogues, very little action. The play does not ask the reader to have special knowledge not does it attempts to give the reader any insight into the mind of the criminal or the method and the motive. Yet it contains enough ‘masala’ (pardon the cliché) to keep the reader glued to it, waiting for the end. At in the end is this twist that had left me childishly happy at having been fooled yet another time by Mrs. Christie. As a play from one of my favorite author The Mousetrap happens to be my favorite in the current list of top ten books.
Reference Sources: Google [ Booke Cover] , Wikipedia, St. Martin’s Theatre site, The Gaurdian