(Laura Thompson’s article appeared in the Telegraph, 12/28.)
When The Mousetrap premiered in Nottingham in October 1952, one month prior to its opening at the Ambassador’s Theatre, its author, Agatha Christie, took a modest view of its prospects. Despite the presence in the cast of Richard Attenborough, still the biggest name ever to feature in The Mousetrap, Christie believed that her play would run in the West End for about eight months.
She wasn’t unduly bothered by her own tepid prognosis. The Mousetrap was merely one of six plays that she wrote between 1943 and 1953, a decade in which she was probably keener on the theatre than on fulfilling her publisher’s yearly demand for detective fiction.
“I enjoyed writing plays,” she would later declare. The Mousetrap was squeezed between The Hollow in 1951, which, according to her literary agent Edmund Cork, “almost burst the Fortune Theatre” and her 1953 hit, Witness for the Prosecution, the work that above all others turned her from a successful author into a worldwide phenomenon. It was a sensation in the West End, on Broadway and later in the cinema.