Friday, December 05, 2014

From O. Reader

The Mousetrap

It is in the record books as the longest running play in theatre history – currently notching up its 63rd year in London.

I first saw it in the early 60s with my grandmother.

Then, when first married to Mrs O, we used to have cheap holidays in London at my mother’s home – and saw it together then.

Wind the clock forward to this, a special anniversary year – someone kindly gives us a present for our anniversary, which translated in theater tickets for a matinee performance by a touring company in South Wales.

In London I imagine the main audience is made up of foreign tourists scratching their heads and wondering why on earth this is such a phenomenon for the British?

In the South Wales theater matinee performance, it was “grey power” time. Well, blue rinse and bald head time. Since I currently sport neither I was in the minority. I actually felt quite young just looking around. It was very gratifying because I am now of an age where you remember being told to respect your elders, but find it increasingly difficult to find any!

But what can one say of this old creaking vehicle after more than 62 years?

Well, there is humor – there is suspense – and there is a lot of sheer ham – but as expected, the cast brought off very well... Almost at the start of the play a radio announces that the murderer they are looking for was seen wearing a dark overcoat, a light scarf and a dark felt hat... As it does so, a main character tidying up picks her husband’s clothes absent-mindedly off a chair – a dark overcoat, light scarf and dark felt hat...

It got the desired laugh, and things kept up well thereafter.

As always with touring productions, there was a generally unknown cast. The only name I knew was a radio actress, and she was here as an understudy. But their CVs showed various fringe theater efforts, small parts in TV programs, and in one case the proud boast of being the back end of a pantomime cow in a famous TV commercial.

And as always with touring productions, apart from the occasional thespian in the last throes of their “career” it was nearly all fresh faced youngsters not long out of drama school. Young people playing middle-aged or elderly people, even with the ministrations of stage make-up, never does work properly for me. Even in films it rarely works.  I can see me now watching the boy wonder Orson Welles in Citizen Kane playing the old Charles Foster Kane - he still looks like he’s got a face full of latex. Which he has.

The Mousetrap started life as a 30 minute radio play by Agatha Christie, who later expanded it for the stage. When I first discovered detective fiction, Agatha Christie was heralded as “The Queen of Crime.”  Later in life, I lived near her for a while.  Even later again I worked out that I had actually called at her home in Wallingford as part of my then activities. However, I never met her in person.

Even as a teenager and a pre-teen, I had an obsessive nature. So I remember clearly how I made a list of every book Agatha had written up until then, and ticked them off as I read them. There I was, sitting in the school corridor, lounging on the school playing fields – bedlam all around me, and me just reading, reading, reading. I remember how I ticked off number 36 and something snapped. I almost screamed out loud. I had gone down with a bad case of Agatha Christie overload.

I never touched another one until about two years ago, when in desperation late one night suffering from insomnia I found a free one online to put on my eReader as chewing gum for the eyes. I discovered I was now partially cured of the aversion.

Personally I prefer the stories as radio plays, and Mrs O has all the TV series on DVD video. Still, it was nostalgic to visit the theatre.

What was amusing was the collection of people around us – after the first half with its two acts, they all had theories as to who dunnit. It must have been a really well-kept secret for 62 years. Because what was particularly amusing is that they were ALL WRONG. Mrs O had forgotten who the murderer was. I hadn’t, but this WAS the THIRD time for me.

And I remember at the very end at the curtain call, what they did at every performance – a bit like Hitchcock did in the first showings of Psycho – a pact with the audience, don’t tell anyone the secret.

So – under pain of being struck down with an awful curse, the audience must not disclose WHAT REALLY HAPPENED. Well, I think that after 62 years the time has come to break the spell and use a venerable pixie blog to do it. Some readers may even have seen the play themselves – somewhere. So dear reader, either look away now or be prepared to learn that the killer really was.......




  1. Occasional Readeeeer..... Occasional Readeeeer!!!!

    What happened now? Where is Occasional Reader?And his wife? Damn, I can't see... Where is the light?

    Can someone tell me what happened? Where is Occasional Reader and who is the killer of the play?

    Mr. Occasional Reeeaaadeeer!!! Mrs. Occasional Reeeaadeeer!!!
    Switch the light on please!

  2. Freudian Slip1:46 AM

    "Even as a teenager and a pre-teen, I had an obsessive nature. So I remember clearly how I made a list of every book Agatha had written up until then, and ticked them off as I read them."

    And there we have it! Look no further for an insight into the phenomenon that is OR.

    Many years ago I missed something precious and irreplaceable. OR had recently visited. For many years I had my suspicions as to the culprit. Then during his recent blood poisoning event, I visited his home and gained entry to the inner sanctum (after crawling under a thick curtain) and in a row with precisely seventy glass sweet jars, I espied my missing artifact.

    'Twas labelled "Navel Hair, 1969".

    Now I know for a fact that OR accidentally broke HIS jar in 1972 (when counting his collection for the seventeen time on 25 July). But to replace it with a phony is stooping low even for him.

    Please return said jar quam celerime!

    (That should send him scuttling for the on-line Latin to English translator!)

    I need it for MY collection (which stands at forty-eight, of course, Sha'el:-))

  3. An occasional reader8:34 AM

    If we are going to Latin:

    Me transmitte sursum, Caledoni!

  4. Mark Miwords10:33 AM

    Et tu, Reade !

  5. An occasional reader12:34 PM

    That is not by any chance a reference to Charles Reade, Victorian novelist, whom no-body reads today? He was carved up nicely by George Orwell:

    (Reade) possessed vast stocks of disconnected information. If you have the sort of mind that takes a pleasure in dates, lists, catalogues, concrete details, descriptions of processes, junk-shop windows and back numbers of the Exchange and Mart, the sort of mind that likes knowing exactly how a medieval catapult worked or just what objects a prison cell of the eighteen-forties contained, then you can hardly help enjoying Reade.

    Sounds vaguely familiar.

    Now pass me the dice for my turn in Trivial Pursuit...

  6. After reading these comments I am sure I have fallen down the rabbit hole.

  7. A rabbit hole? Not one Alice would enter.

  8. An occasional reader11:15 PM

    It's about time for one of those "two old guys from the UK should behave" comments...

    (Plaintively) And all I did was write about going to the theater...

  9. 'No Carolls here'12:41 AM

    And don't think I've missed 'humor' and 'theater'!

    Your dear ole grandma would turn in her grave!

    And I asked you to poof-read my book!

  10. An occasional reader7:03 AM

    Hmmm. When writing for an American blog I try and remember American spelling. I am sure there is a good debate on the virtues (or otherwise) of the way Americans use the language and also spell it.

    But I leave that to braver souls than I. (or should that be "me...?")

  11. "I" is correct. Add the understood verb "am" as a test.

  12. An occasional reader11:22 PM

    Some grammarians - even more pedantic than I (am) - say that both can be correct, depending on whether you are you using "than" as a conjunction or a preposition...

    And some sentences need the difference, depending on the meaning. For example:

    She likes chocolate better than I.
    That means, she likes chocolate better than I like chocolate. But, she likes chocolate better than me. That means that she likes chocolate better than she likes me... (Sob!)

    Sometimes you can help remove the question, just by completing the sentence and sticking the missing (understood) word in.

    English. Huh. American. Huh. In what other language do you have noses that run, and feet that smell...

  13. Oh My God... Nooo! They have started an Anglo-English grammar war. My ears are bleeding! Make it stop!

  14. An occasional reader9:37 AM

    Ah no, but it is not "than me am" - in this instance the missing part of the sentence (that is understood) is not "am" at all, but:

    She likes chocolate better than (she likes) me (period).

    But I agree with Harry - in any debate on language one only has a slim chance of winning...

    Or should that be a fat chance...?

  15. I wasn't commenting on that sentence. I was commenting on your general rule.

  16. An occasional reader10:52 AM

    You can see why people trying to learn English as a second language (or trying to teach English as a second language) have a habit of tearing their hair out.

    Final thought - you are a teacher, and you know that sometimes I'm what you might just call a preacher. If a teacher taught, does it mean a preacher praught...