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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 was running continuously (until the COVID-19 Pandemic forced the theatre to close in 2020). 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. Sorry!

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, unlikable character that few theatregoers shed tears at her death at the end of the first act.
    • The posthumous character Maureen Lyon, whose abuse of her three foster children led to one of them dying.
  • The Atoner: Several characters are trying to escape their past, and one feels sorry about something that they had done.
  • Building of Adventure: The entire play takes within Monkswell Manor. (Even more specifically, it takes place within the drawing room of Monkswell Manor, with occasional noises off indicating what is happening elsewhere in the house.)
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  • The Butler Did It: A theatreland joke tells of a cab driver who, dropping his passengers off outside the theatre showing The Mousetrap and, feeling angry about not getting a tip, yells "The butler did it!" and drives off. The joke relies on you knowing that there isn't a butler in the play.
  • Chekhov's Gun: The box Giles puts in the window seat and the package Mollie puts in the desk drawer at the beginning of the show.
  • Closed Circle: By a snowstorm and cut phone lines.
  • 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 (Christie's grandson). The dismay is also noted on the Wikipedia page.
    • 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 (apart from Sgt. Trotter) not played up as possibly being the murderer 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 essentially used their three foster children as 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 disliked, 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.
  • The Lad-ette: Miss Casewell. Wears trousers and generally acts tough.
  • Long Runner: It has run continuously 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.
  • My Greatest Failure: Mrs. Ralston was sent a letter by the youngest Corrigan boy detailing the horrid conditions he and his siblings were living in, but was ill when she received it and consequently didn't read it until after the boy was already dead. Unlike Mrs. Boyle, she feels horrible about her role in the events and failing to prevent the tragedy.
  • 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.
  • Sinister Whistling: The unseen killer can be heard whistling Three Blind Mice right before the murder. The killer repeats the whistle after their identity is revealed.
  • 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, although it's theorized that there will only be three.
  • This Is Reality: How the other characters react to Paravicini commenting on the action unfolding around them as if it was a mystery story.
  • Who Murdered the Asshole?: Maureen Lyon, the first 'blind mouse'/murder victim, was an abusive foster mother to the three Corrigan children, causing the death of the youngest. The second blind mouse was Mrs. Boyle, whose Hate Sink and Jerkass trope entries speak for themselves. She was also the person who placed the Corrigan children with the Lyons, and shows no remorse about their fate. It's theorized that the murderer is one of the children that Maureen abused, getting revenge on people involved in the tragedy (Maureen's husband isn't targeted only because he died in prison), or one of the Corrigans' loved ones going after them for the same reason.
  • 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 backgrounds unexplained.

By the way, the murderer is... not gonna be revealed here.

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