The 'Mousetrap' opens
Just as some celebrities now are famous for being famous, so The Mousetrap’s run goes on partly because it is the longest run in theatre history.
The genesis of the play is rather complex: author Agatha Christie first based a radio play on a true event, then made it into a short story, then adapted the story as a stage play which was toured outside London to iron out any flaws and have the piece ready for the capital’s critics by the time it arrived there: it first played in Nottingham , then Oxford , Manchester , Liverpool , Newcastle , Leeds and Birmingham before beginning its West End run at the New Ambassadors Theatre on November 25 1952 where it remained until March 23 1974, transferring without missing a night to the St Martin’s Theatre handily located next door.
It puts the play’s longevity into context to note that it broke the previous record run of 2239 performances in April 1958, and has now clocked up more than 23,000. Various traditions have arisen with regard to the play, with a cake ceremonially cut when the cast is changed – usually in late November – to keep the piece fresh; and at the end of the performance the audience is requested not to reveal the twist at the play’s denouement to anyone outside the theatre, as it would spoil the piece for those who have not yet seen it.
The actors who have appeared in the show – more than 380 to date and counting - have doubtless been glad of the work, and the chance to hone their stage skills; but the biggest beneficiary of the run has been Christie’s grandson, Matthew Pritchard, who was given the rights to the piece as a birthday present when he was nine.
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