Theatre / The Mousetrap

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A 1952 play by Agatha Christie adapted from her 1947 radio play, "Three Blind Mice". Since its opening night in London Soho, the play has been running continuously. It holds the world record for longest running show (of any type) of the modern era.

The plot takes place in a guest house called Monkswell Manor, run by a Mr. and Mrs. Ralston. They've only just inherited the house, close to where Mrs. Ralston grew up, and they're excited about the arrival of their very first guests. On their first night running the guest house, however, the Ralstons and their four odd lodgers are snowed in during a blizzard. The radio announces that a serial killer is on the loose — one who uses the children's song "Three Blind Mice" as a Leitmotif. And the more and more time passes, the more and more reason there is to believe that the killer may be inside Monkswell Manor. When one of the guests indeed ends up murdered, suspicion starts falling on anyone and everyone in the manor. Suffice to say, there are a ton of twists which unfold slowly over the entire course of the tale. And that's all we're going to say.


This work features examples of:

  • Ambiguously Gay: Many viewers think that Christopher Wren is supposed to be gay, based on his mannerisms and finding Sgt. Trotter to be attractive (as a policeman), "terribly hearty", etc. Officially, he's not.
  • Asshole Victim: Mrs. Boyle is such a snobbish, callous, unlikeable character that few theatregoers shed tears at her death at the end of the first act.
  • Cut Phone Lines: Done by the murderer to further isolate the guesthouse from the outside world.
  • Do Not Spoil This Ending: At the end of the play, the audience is asked not to spoil the ending. No film adaptation (or any other adaptation, for that matter) is allowed to be made while the play is still running. Mass market publication of the script is not allowed in the United Kingdom either. Since it's been running for sixty years, it's likely no adaptation will ever see the light of day. As a matter of fact, TV Tropes ain't spoiling either. Got that?
    • There's a much nastier variation of the joke from The Butler Did It above; in it, the cab driver has actually seen the play, and he yells out the name of the actual culprit while driving off.
    • The USSR didn't particularly care about those nasty capitalist rules, and, therefore, produced in 1990 a pretty straightforward movie adaptation.
    • Wikipedia, naturally, notes the ending on its page about the play, much to the dismay of the present owner of the play.
    • Three Blind Mice was eventually released as a book, but its foreword proudly announced that it had been banned for decades.
  • Everyone Is a Suspect: There is a reason why the tagline for the play in the brochures is, "Suspect Everyone". The only person not played up at possibly being the murder is Mollie.
  • Faux Shadow: Virtually every character gets it at some point, always done very well.
  • Foreshadowing: While there are many Red Herrings scattered throughout the play, there are some genuine hints as to the killer's identity as well; one character's reaction in particular to the announcement that the Berkshire Police are sending Sgt. Trotter to the house foreshadows some of the biggest twists in the play's denouement.
  • Fostering for Profit: It is mentioned that Posthumous Character Maureen Lyon and her husband had used their three foster children as essentially slave labour on their farm, with their ill-treatment resulting in the death of one of the children.
  • Funny Foreigner: Mr. Paravicini is generally played with a comically over the top Italian accent and mannerisms, contributing to a sense that he may not be all he claims to be.
  • Hate Sink: Mrs. Boyle serves this purpose - she is a universally unliked, unpleasable elitist old nagger.
  • Jerkass: Mrs. Boyle can get pretty mean at times, questioning Mollie's motives at running a guest house and not showing a speck of remorse for the death of the Corrigan boy. It's no wonder she gets killed at the end of act one.
  • Long Runner: It has run since its opening, and is in fact the longest running theatrical production period.
  • Meta Guy: Paravicini frequently names conventions of the "cosy" crime fiction genre, proving to be quite Genre Savvy. These include highlighting the dangers of not knowing the guests, commenting on the convenience of the isolation of the characters, and asking Trotter not to spoil the "ending" (reveal the murderer), as the last scene/reveal is always the best scene.
  • Minimalist Cast: Due to the entire play taking place in a single room in the middle of a snowstorm. There are just eight characters: Giles and Mollie Ralston, Christopher Wren, Major Metcalf, Mrs. Boyle, Miss Casewell, Mr. Paravicini, and Sgt. Trotter.
  • Old, Dark House: The play is set in Monkswell Manor, a sprawling manor house converted into a guesthouse.
  • Plot-Triggering Death: The events of the play are set in motion by the murder of Maureen Lyon, whose abuse of the three Corrigan siblings, to whom she and her husband were foster parents, led to the death of one of them. Several characters in the play, including the killer, are revealed to be connected to the Corrigan case.
  • Posthumous Character: Maureen Lyon, whose murder is heard (but not seen) at the start of the play.
  • Red Herring: Take a shot every time there's one of these and you'll be unconscious by the end of the first act.
  • Running Gag: Early in the play, when a new character arrives at the house, the description of the killer's clothes is given, usually as they take each item off.
  • Snowed-In: During the entire play.
  • Split Personality: It is hinted the killer may have a split personality as a result of a traumatic past experience. The personality of the killer is the one who underwent the trauma, while the personality they display in their cover identity was developed as a defence against said trauma.
  • Surprisingly Sudden Death: The killer manages to strangle Mrs. Boyle to death in about five seconds.
  • Suspect Is Hatless: The radio description of the killer is actually pretty good, except for the fact that it could potentially describe every single character in the play.
  • Ten Little Murder Victims: What the characters trapped in the house suspect is going on.
  • This Is Reality: How the other characters react to Paravicini commenting on the action unfolding around them as if it was a mystery story.
  • Wham Line: Although in the interest of maintaining the spoiler policy, the context and speaker are omitted.
    The police don't.
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: Most of the loose ends are tied up by the end of the play, but a few characters are left with their background unexplained.

By the way, the murderer is...not to be revealed on this wiki.
http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Theatre/TheMousetrap