The Mousetrap, and Other Plays
Anyone traveling to England for a vacation usually tries to see a play or two in London. Glancing through the London Times or Evening News at the current listing of plays running in London, one finds Agatha Christie’s The Mousetrap, which has played continuously since November, 1952, thus earning it the record for being the longest running play.
In the tradition of The Fantasticks in the United States, The Mousetrap is performed in a small theater. While theater size certainly accounts at least in part for the fact that the play has run so long in London, the basic reason is that The Mousetrap continues to attract the tourist traffic—even with the competition of more than thirty plays and musicals to choose from in London. The Mousetrap has become an English institution, along with the Tower, London Bridge, and Buckingham Palace; no trip to London would be complete without seeing it.
Most Americans are familiar with Agatha Christie as the author of carefully structured, first-rate murder mysteries. Yet most readers have not had the privilege of reading a Christie play unless they have access to a handy catalogue from one of the companies specializing in serving amateur theater groups in this country. It is interesting that only The Mousetrap and a very few other plays by Christie have appeared in print, other than in acting editions not readily available to the public. At last, in this one volume, the best of Christie has been assembled for the reader. While reading a play certainly will never take the place of actually seeing it, a production is not always available, and so this volume is a rich storehouse of the best work of a popular playwright.
Christie is an outstanding mystery writer, and her plays are even more compact and carefully written than her novels. The rigors of writing for the theater demand concise dialogue; action must be shown as well as discussed. Many writers...
(The entire section is 816 words.)