A long time ago, Agatha Christie’s Mousetrap had played to packed halls in Mumbai, and since then I have wanted to catch this play. When I heard that at long last the play was being staged in Mumbai, I immediately booked tickets for the show.

The Mousetrap is a classic Christie play, that has a bunch people staying at a hotel, suddenly cut off from the world by a blizzard. As the play progresses, you realize that one of them may or may not be a wanted killer. In classic Christie fashion, there are a number of red herrings, a murder and a grand finale where the murderer is unmasked. Originally a radio play, it was later adapted for the stage, and has been staged all over the world.

The version I saw was based in the 1970’s with the characters infused with the flavors of the 70’s, and the atmosphere charged with some great (and not so great) 70’s tracks. As far as the story goes, the adaptation followed the original bringing the same air of mystery that Christie’s books embody.

However, in terms of the production value the play was just short of a complete disaster. Lets start with the sound. While the music played brilliantly well, the sound from the microphones on stage wasn’t always audible. Like the splotchy heating of the rooms in the play, the actors seemed to be almost inaudible from some corners of the stage, while they could be heard quite well from other parts of the stage.

Next is the lighting. It seemed like the lighting man almost always put the spotlight right next to where the actor was standing/ sitting (rather than on). I don’t know if that was deliberate, but it did happen with alarming regularity. Also the lights seemed to arbitrarily dim and brighten, sometimes with no relation to what was happening on stage. The curtains seemed to be a bit slow in moving. They didn’t lift until the actor on stage had gotten through some lines, and before the interval it seemed like they hurriedly closed, leaving people bewildered as to whether it was an intermission or not.

Lastly, the acting. The acting seemed very amateurish, of the school play variety, hardly the kind you expect to see in a professional production. To the actors credit, the characters of Christopher Wren and Mrs. Boyle were well etched out and these two characters were quite memorable. The actress who played Mrs. Mollie Ralston (Sonali I think her name was) also did a good job (not to mention provided some much needed eye candy) . But the rest of the  cast went from being a harsh nuisance on the ears to just about tolerable. It got so grating that at one point of time I actually wished that they would just play the Jimi Hendrix track “Along the watchtower” instead of acting on stage.

In the end, what could have been a great mystery play ended up being a weak caricature of itself, plagued by problems in almost all areas. The audience seemed to also find the play unintentionally funny, with sporadic bursts of laughter erupting at some serious moments.

Would I recommend this? Well, the play does definitely have its moments, especially in scenes just before the interval which show glimpses of the brilliant play it could have been. So,  I’d say go for it if you are a Christie fan, you might just find it entertaining. But if you are the kind that likes guaranteed entertainment then avoid at all costs.

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  2. Kynan Khambatta says:

    You’re right — Sonali Sehgal was pretty good looking.