The third play in Red Panda’s inaugural summer season brings audiences to their feet.
The Mousetrap is a play that explores the characters and all their eccentricities in the first act and proceeds with all the action and deduction in the second. And with a plot twist so unexpectedly, it’s the perfect night out to get you back into in-person theatre once again.
The play doesn’t require you to think hard about deeper meanings or themes, but rather challenges you, almost unconsciously, to start poking at the answers to the all-important questions of this classic murder mystery. Who could the murderer be? Why are they in this guest house? And who might they kill next?
Thanks to the play’s writer, Agatha Christie herself, and the actors who play them, The Mousetrap’s characters are well-rounded, each with a secret to their name. When they are all in the room, it’s hard to know who to look at first. You can tell the actors know their characters well. The acting is not just focused on those speaking but those reacting to those speaking, making it an interesting game to evaluate what those reactions mean.
At the play’s start, the audience is introduced to Mollie Ralston, played by Abbie McCarthy, and Giles Ralston, played by Rylan Melies. The pair play a young couple barely married one year who have inherited her aunt’s old manor and turned it into a guest house. They are hopeful that their first night open will go smoothly. But a blizzard hits, trapping them inside the home with five other guests and a policeman who believes a murderer is among them. Each guest has their own distinct personality and more than one of them may be a liar. As the hours go by, we start to see cause for any of them to be the murderer. With each twist and turn, the play keeps you guessing and second-guessing yourself. A fair warning, this play has more red herrings than I could count.
Christopher Wren, played by Jason McIntyre, and Major Metcalf, played by James Nowlan, stood out to me. Wren kept the audience on our toes with his creative tangents taking over the stage in his first couple of scenes, especially later on when we started to empathize with him more. Nowlan always found ways to work a tinge of humour into his character’s curiosity of architecture and optimism.
I also enjoyed following Dillon Matchett in the role of Sergeant Trotter, the steadfast detective who drove the narrative. He asked the questions and spoke in a manner that captivated the audience. He was someone whom you couldn’t ignore and commanded the stage in a subtle, yet firm manner.
As a bonus, the play is set up against the backdrop of the Christ Church Cathedral’s magnificence in downtown Fredericton.
The Mousetrap got a couple of chuckles out of me, but it held my attention because I was trying to pay attention to all of the details that might help me figure out the mystery. By the end, opening night received a standing ovation and made me excited to see more pieces from Spearhead Theatre and Red Panda Productions.
The play, directed by Tilly Jackson, will be shown four more times, on July 30 and 31 at 7 p.m. and July 31 and August 1 at 2 pm. All shows take place at the Christ Church Cathedral. Tickets are $15 plus tax and $25 plus tax for a premium ticket with closer seats. They are available online at howlandridge.ca/events or in-person at the event.