Review: The Scousetrap

The Scousetrap
Date: 06/10/2022

What took you so long, Royal Court? The puntastic theatre must have a list of scouseworthy productions ready and waiting to go. Personally, we’re waiting for a Halloween adaptation of The Haunting Of Hill House. Something timely given international tensions? What about The Scouse That Roared? And we’ve already copyrighted The Last Scouse On The Left.

Larks aside, the Mousetrap is an inspired choice for the Royal Court: its Agatha Christie, Sunday night set-up is both homely and ripe for parody, while the whodunnit genre is having a moment in cinemas. With Eithne Browne is your de facto rep company, you’ve surely got a home run.

The plot… well, what plot? The cast almost acknowledge as much. There are some murders and some people who may have committed said murders. We can’t actually remember the guilty party – does it actually matter?

What we do get is a number of set pieces that provide space for the up-for-it cast to run through their repertoire of funnies and swap some overt digs at the appalling state of the current Adelphi, where the mayhem unfolds (the set, showing the hotel in its heyday, is a glorious reminder of what we’re missing).

The Scousetrap is more enjoyable when it stops trying and goes all-in on farce, slapstick and revue.

Browne’s lawyer-friendly take on Christie’s most famous creation (Mrs Marble) has to tackle German bombs, an untrustworthy cast of fellow travellers and wonky script to get us through the first half. But The Scousetrap is more enjoyable when it stops trying and goes all-in on farce, slapstick and revue.

A seance scene where David Benson gets to run through an extended Frankie Howerd impression (poking fun at the audience and play alike) is a highlight, while his louche Bishop of Birkenhead amounts to a sublime take on John Le Mesurier; Keddy Sutton, channelling Julie Walters, doesn’t so much steal scenes as nick the theatre; and there’s a sort of greatest hits of British comedy, notably some borrowing from Allo Allo here and a Norman Wisdom (Jack Lane) there.

The Scousetrap

So this is all well and good – and a good time is had by all. But director Cal McCrystal and co-writer Kevin Fearon serve up plenty of misses alongside the hits. As with many script at the Royal Court, there’s a real sense that another buffing, another draft would have fully realised the comedy here.

Did we have fun? Yes. Could it be stronger? Yes. Perhaps the Royal Court understands that equation and is happy to take it. A relatively small cast and crew do bring several original productions to stage, after all. But while it’s said of The Mousetrap that the play and the author are the real stars, here it’s the cast and a willing audience doing the heavy lifting.

The Scousetrap
Royal Court
Until 29 October

• Images by Jason Roberts Photography