Attending this classic murder-mystery at the Oxford Playhouse was a unique experience; the evening seemed to be more than just play-watching, but rather taking part in a theatrical tradition.

Celebrating 67 years since its opening at The Ambassadors Theatre, this touring version is remarkably spry.

I was intrigued to learn that in 1952, as part of its pre-West End opening tour, the original production called into Oxford’s New Theatre. In those days it would have been contemporary and, if you consider the back stories of some of the characters, quite gritty in places. Nowadays it comes across as a sepia view into a long-vanished world of impecunious middle-class country house living – but it’s a classic of that genre.

Giles and Mollie Ralston (an engaging Nick Biadon and Harriett Hare) decide to open their inherited house to paying guests to help make ends meet. It’s their first day open for business and they welcome a rather motley crew of residents.

Lewis Chandler as Christopher Wren (an architect!) is a real show-stealer, relishing delivering some of the funniest lines in the play. Crisp performances by Saskia Vaigncourt-Strallen as mysterious Miss Casewell, Gwyneth Strong as fearsome Mrs Boyle, and John Griffiths as Major Metcalf, add a balancing plausibility to the slightly eccentric plot.

Inevitably they become snowed in. When the radio announces a murder has been committed in London, followed swiftly by the arrival of Police Sergeant Trotter – on skis – to announce he suspects the murderer is within, we know we are in Agatha Christie country. So suspension of disbelief becomes easy enough as we rattle along, like the Orient Express, to the rather surprising denouement.

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At the end of the show the audience are sworn to secrecy regarding the identity of the culprit – a charming tradition unique to the show. It’s a piece with real tradition behind it and many fascinating historical titbits attached.

It was originally written at the behest of Queen Mary, grandmother of our current Queen, as a 30-minute radio piece called ‘Three Blind Mice’, broadcast on that Queen’s 80th birthday in 1947.

Christie described The Mousetrap as “the sort of play you can take anyone to. It’s not really frightening. It’s not really horrible. It’s not really a farce, but it has a little bit of all these things and perhaps that satisfies a lot of different people”. I couldn’t agree more. She also predicted it would run for about eight months. Just that once the Queen of Crime read the clues wrongly.