When she turned nine, Denise Silvey's mother gave her a copy of 'The Murder of Roger Ackroyd' written by Agatha Christie. "I was hooked from then on," she said. "I think probably the narrator in the book is still my favourite character." But that may have just been a sign for the things to come as Silvey (in pic) is now the Artistic Director of 'The Mousetrap', Christie's longest running play. It had debuted in London in 1952 and has since then been playing continuously; so much so that it is one of the tourist attractions for those who visit London.
The plot is vintage Christie and begins when a snow storm descends on Monkswell Manor, an isolated country house run by newlyweds Giles and Mollie Ralston. The guests are snowbound and cut off from the world. There are eight cast members which include an architect Christopher Wren, English army man Major Metcalf, retiree Mrs Boyle, young spirited woman Miss Casewell and Paravicini, an unexpected guest. Sergeant Trotter, a police detective, arrives at the inn and announces that one of them is in terrible danger and the potential victim of a killer.
Talking of what it entails to direct a play of this stature, Silvey commented, "It's all about getting a good team together including the creatives, back stage staff and marketing, as well as the actors. It is about making sure that all of the actors work well together and look good together." She herself has played Miss Casewell twice, once in 1994 and once in 2001. Silvey took over running the show in her current capacity in 2009 and besides that, she also works as a producer and director on other shows and "very occasionally, I do a tiny bit of acting." She had spent the first 20 years of her career as an actress and singer and did shows in the West End and some television. "I'm currently producing a show with the Pet Shop Boys that's opening in London early next year."
The Mousetrap has been setting new world records as it continues its long innings. Over the years, over 474 actors and 279 understudies have appeared in more than 28,000 performances. It has been presented in 27 different languages in more than 50 countries, including China and Singapore. When it opened in 1952, Richard Attenborough and his wife Sheila Sim essayed leading roles. Silvey reminisced the memorable moments of the play. She listed them out, "Being on stage when Richard Attenborough joined us and did the curtain speech, the 60th anniversary celebrity performance when for one night we had an all-star cast including Hugh Bonneville and Patrick Stewart, directing a production in Mandarin through an interpreter and performing the play in Raffles Hotel in Singapore." The curtain speech, incidentally, is delivered traditionally to the audience to keep the identity of the killer a secret. It goes as follows: '"Now you have seen The Mousetrap you are our partners in crime, and we ask you to preserve the tradition by keeping the secret of whodunit locked in your hearts.'
Silvey brings up an interesting anecdote about the play. "The film rights were sold at the time the play opened on the proviso that it would not be filmed until 6 months after the play finished in London. Whoever bought them has had a long wait!" It was in March 1956 that the original producer of The Mousetrap, Peter Saunders, had sold the film rights, but shrewdly added the proviso that the film could not be released until six months after the end of the West End run.
The Mousetrap is doing a three-city Indian tour, travelling through Chennai, Mumbai and Bengaluru. To all these audiences, Silvey promises "a lot of humour, suspense, and an opportunity to play amateur sleuth."