The art of the murder mystery will be brought to life when Bloomsbury House stages the iconic classic The Mousetrap as part of their debut season from Feb. 13 to 23 at Sho Studios in Windsor.
With a stunning and fun script and a great cast, directors Martin Ouellette and Carly Morrison-Hart should have a surefire winner on their hands.
Agatha Christie’s The Mousetrap strands seven strangers at Monkswell Manor during a blizzard. But a police sergeant unexpectedly arrives, worried that a murderer-at-large is among the guests of the Manor.
Before he can investigate, one of the guests is killed, starting an investigation into the lives and histories of everyone there.
The Mousetrap is considered the world’s longest continuously running play, going on for over 60 years and is infamous for its twist ending, which the audience are traditionally asked not to reveal after leaving the theatre.
Why produce The Mousetrap this season?
Carly Morrison-Hart (co-director): We wanted something classic that we could mess with and make new in some ways. Mousetrap, having such success in England, was an easy choice. We also have a lot of small cast plays this season, and wanted the challenge of a bigger ensemble.
Martin Ouellette (co-director): We wanted to have one show this season that could give our audiences the same sort of experience a holiday panto gives to kids, and each guest that arrives at Monkswell Manor is stranger than the previous one while the heightened stakes and twisting plot lend the script an over-the-top quality that suits the comic panto style.
What is it about The Mousetrap that makes it one of the longest running shows of all time not only in the UK, but Canada as well?
Carly: Agatha Christie wrote with pitch perfection, and people feel it when they see the play. It surrounds you, and you are all of a sudden part of the plot, distrusting everyone who graces the stage. Something about a good murder plot makes people happy…creepy and wonderful, isn’t it?
Martin: It’s a clever horror tale and very funny script that hits on some classic themes of English class war that still resonate today. The way the show is constructed makes it easy for busy actors to rotate into the production for a few weeks and show off their comedy chops.
It still carries the tradition of secrecy surrounding the who-did-it ending even after all these years. Not many shows have such a tradition. It certainly adds to the mystique of the show. Are you hoping your audiences will keep the secret going?
Carly: The play is widely known about, and it’s part of the fun to keep the secret going. I believe our audiences will be thrilled to be a part of the magic.
Martin: It’s definitely a long-running tradition to keep the ending a secret, and I think in our spoiler-hating culture we’ll have no problem keeping that going.
For such a long-running show, why do you think it never became a movie?
Carly: I do believe that it is not legally allowed to become a movie until the play has stopped for a certain amount of years. I think, like your last question, it is about keeping the secret.
Martin: By contract, a movie can’t go into preproduction until the West End version closes, and it’s still going strong.
There is a certain art to murder mysteries. Have you done them before?
Carly: We’ve both considered murder before on other productions, but neither of us have taken on the task of directing a murder mystery. Martin’s mom is a super sleuth, and is our secret weapon when it came to details. Since we are putting on our own Bloomsbury twist on the play, we’re very excited about the whole thing.
Martin: I’ve directed horror and comedy as well as Gilbert & Sullivan, and helped out on and performed in a few Korda pantos, so I feel well-prepared.
Have you seen The Mousetrap before. Where/when and what did you think?
Carly: No, it has only been playing in our heads for 6 months straight, but alas we have not been able to see a production, though I think another local company produced it quite a number of years ago. Our cast has been bringing the script alive every rehearsal.
Martin: I have not seen the show either, but grew up on the dryly comic British mysteries my mother watches on PBS, including Agatha Christie’s Poirot, so her writing style holds a special place for me.
What do you think you can bring to The Mousetrap that will both make old fans and new fans happy?
Carly: In the spirit of not giving secrets away, we have to be careful answering this one. Let’s just say, we have approached it with open, broad minds, making big choices for the characters, and how they interact with one another, as well as the audience.
Martin: I think our experience with mixing horror and comedy, as well as helping coax fearless performances out of young actors, will result in a much higher-energy, faster-moving experience than you’d expect from a classic drawing-room mystery.
Agatha Christie was an amazing writer. What are your thoughts about her and her works?
Carly: As a youth, I went through a few years of murder mystery, and Christie was that author that launched me into so many other universes.
She is adept at keeping you wondering, getting you almost frustrated that you can’t find the truth. I also love her personal myth, once disappearing for two weeks and never fully explaining herself when she finally got home. The lady was brilliant, and it shows through her works, and the love they have accumulated all these years later.
Martin: I mentioned the connection to my childhood memories in front of the TV, but as an adult I’ve come to appreciate just how funny and cutting she was, especially when dissecting certain snooty ideas about aristocracy and moral superiority.
Talk a bit about the casting and why you guys chose the actors you did.
Carly: One of the choices we made, when choosing this play, was to use a younger, very talented cast. Our ingénue couple Aidan Robertson and Tatum Roy are classmates from Windsor’s WCCA program, while Matt Alexander and Jennifer Desaulniers are students at the University of Windsor who blew us away as the villains in Korda’s panto this past December.
Martin: Alexandra Hagen, Emily Jones, and Callum Keane fill out the cast, and Autumn Tousignant stage manages, while yours truly crashes through a few scenes as perhaps the weirdest weirdo in the pack.