Today sees something of a landmark in London’s Theatreland and also in the dark world of London crime. The world’s longest running play, Agatha Christie’s The Mousetrap, achieves its Diamond Jubilee at the wonderful St Martin’s Theatre, one of London’s most charming and intimate theatres.
To celeberate this theatrical landmark London’s first monument to Agatha Christie, the Queen of Crime, will be unveiled at the St Martin’s Lane end of Cranbourne Street today.
The monument was commissioned by Sir Stephen Waley Cohen (the current Producer of The Mousetrap) and Christie’s grandson, Mathew Prichard, and it was Sculpted by Ben Twiston-Davies.
It features a bust of the author, with details reflecting her life and work. On the cover of the book there are motifs depicting Miss Marple, Hercule Poirot, the Orient Express and a country house, plus, of course, a mousetrap.
The sculpture also features a row of smaller book spines which reflect the fact that Agatha Christie’s books were translated into 50 different languages, so the titles of the books are in many languages, as well as in Braille. This is the first statue of the novelist to be erected in London.
The Mousetrap’s first performance was at the Ambassador’s Theatre, just across the court from the St Martin’s Theatre and it took place on 25th November 1952 with Richard Attenborough and his then wife, Sylvia Syms, leading the cast. It transferred to St Martin’s Theatre on 25th March 1974.
The original title was to have been Three Blind Mice. But another production bore the same title and so, on the suggestion of Christie’s son-in-law, it was changed to The Mousetrap – after the play Hamlet has the players perform to trick the king into revealing his guilt.
Christie never expected it to achieve the huge success it has achieved and she gave the royalties away as a birthday present to her nephew!
Although the cast changes annually, in late November, there is one member of the cast who has been in every performance since the first.
At the beginning of the play there is a radio news bulletin which was read, and is still read -albeit a recording of the original is now used – by the late Deryck Guyler.
The Mousetrap is about the only one, if not the only one, of Agatha Christie’s works to have never been filmed.
This is because, in the contract she signed, there was a clause stating that no film version of it could be made until at least six months had elapsed after the closure of its first West End run. Since its first West En run has yet to end, no film of it can be made.