July 3, 2022


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Agatha Christie's 'marvellous present' to grandson Mathew: the rights to The Mousetrap

LUCKY LAD: Mathew along with his well-known grandmother (Picture: GETTY)

“No one realised till a lot later,” he says, “what a marvellous present it was. However it’s value remembering that my grandmother had been by way of many occasions in her life when cash was not plentiful.”

The grandmother in query was Agatha Christie. And that beneficiant present bestowed upon her solely grandchild was the rights to her play The Mousetrap.

The yr was 1952, and Mathew would in all probability have most well-liked a practice set or a cricket bat for his birthday. And there was little indication then that his grandmother would very quickly grow to be probably the most well-known and profitable detective fiction author on the planet. Her books have been promoting, however not within the huge numbers they later loved.

Unsurprisingly, nobody is revealing how a lot Mathew has earned down the years from royalties for the performing rights of the play. However it’s recognized that he is donated generously to a clutch of charities for the humanities and different causes, particularly in Wales.

Via his belief he has given substantial quantities, and as soon as informed the BBC he thought it was “no less than one million kilos”.

Mystery author: Agatha Christie

Thriller creator: Agatha Christie (Picture: GETTY)

A profitable producer of movies (Poirot, Demise On The Nile), Mathew, now 78, recollects going along with his grandmother to see what become the world’s longest-running play.

“I went to The Mousetrap a number of occasions along with her in various firm – in household events, with girlfriends and with the Eton cricket staff after I was captain in 1962.”

What sticks extra clearly in his thoughts, he says, is his grandmother’s different ninth birthday present, a bicycle.

Christie herself didn’t count on The Mousetrap to get pleasure from a long term. In her autobiography, she recollects a dialog that she had with the unique producer, the late Peter Saunders. “I give it 14 months,” mentioned Saunders. To which Christie replied: “It will not run that lengthy. Eight months maybe.”

LONGEST RUN: The original cast included Richard Attenborough and Sheila Sim

LONGEST RUN: The unique forged included Richard Attenborough and Sheila Sim (Picture: GETTY)

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After it broke the report for longest run of a play in theWest Finish, Christie acquired a jokingly grudging telegram from playwright Noël Coward: “A lot because it pains me, I actually should congratulate you?” It is a basic whodunit.

As information spreads of a homicide in London, a gaggle of seven strangers discover themselves snowed in at Monkswell Manor, a countryside guesthouse. When a police sergeant arrives, the company uncover – to their horror – {that a} killer is of their midst.

The unique West Finish forged included Richard Attenborough as Detective Sergeant Trotter and his spouse Sheila Sim as Mollie Ralston. They took a ten per cent profit-participation within the manufacturing, paid for out of their mixed weekly wage.

“It proved to be the wisest enterprise resolution I’ve ever made,” mentioned the late actor and movie director subsequently, “however foolishly I bought a few of my share to open a shortlived Mayfair restaurant referred to as The Little Elephant and, later nonetheless, disposed of the rest to be able to preserve my movie, Gandhi, afloat.”

Final November Sam Ebenezer, 27, took over the position of Trotter within the present West Finish manufacturing. “It is a terrific half,” he says.

“In a method, I am like a member of the viewers apparently going by way of the paces of making an attempt to work out the identification of the killer.”

It is also a fantastic little bit of escapism. “Sure, it is a homicide thriller however it’s usually very humorous, too. The TV information is so grim proper now, I believe folks like getting immersed in a narrative that has a satisfying ending.”



Nicole Agada, 30, loves enjoying Mollie, she says. “In some ways, I determine along with her. She ta h takes cost; she’s the lady of the home. However, in fact, she was created within the early 50s and the world has moved on. I’ve to remind myself not m to react as a contemporary girl. Again then, the person at all times had the ultimate say. These have been totally different occasions.

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“Winston Churchill was Prime Minister. Hitler had solely been useless for seven years. And but, the play remains to be working right now. Unbelievable. However then Agatha Christie’s present was timeless.”

9 years in the past, Adam Spiegel produced the primary UK tour of The Mousetrap after which acquired the long-running West Finish manufacturing in 2018. “To my thoughts,” he says, “it is London’s theatrical crown jewels.”

And but, to the informal look, it is a creaky outdated factor set in ration e-book Britain, a present that began when the Queen ascended to the throne in 1952 and which is able to rejoice its seventieth birthday in September.

PAYING BACK: Mathew has donated a fortune to the arts

PAYING BACK: Mathew has donated a fortune to the humanities (Picture: GETTY)

With that in thoughts, Spiegel is sending The Mousetrap on tour once more, this time to 70 totally different venues – from Dublin to Derby, from Blackpool to Bristol, from Norwich to Newcastle – for the remainder of this yr, all by way of 2023 and into 2024.

How does he clarify its enduring enchantment?

“Agatha Christie is the highest-selling creator of all time behind solely Shakespeare and the Bible. Estimates fluctuate however her gross sales fall someplace between two and 4 billion books.” And The Mousetrap, he argues, is a particularly well-constructed play.

“Sure, it is a interval piece however, when folks ” go to the theatre, they are not at all times looking for the avant-garde. Generally, What you need is a satisfying whodunit.”

Spiegel, 54, first noticed The Mousetrap as a toddler. “Proof that the play continues to exert a fascination is illustrated by the truth that folks go to see it as kids, then as mother and father and at last gra as grandparents. For hundreds and hundreds of younger folks, their very first expertise of stay theatre is watching The Mousetrap.”

Agatha Christie's 'The Mousetrap' - 60th Anniversary Gala Performance

Agatha Christie’s ‘The Mousetrap’ – sixtieth Anniversary Gala Efficiency (Picture: GETTY)

Janet Hudson-Holt is equally enthusiastic. When she turned its wardrobe supervisor ” and costume designer in 2002, the play had already clocked up its half-century of steady performances in theWest Finish.

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Initially, in fact, the garments have been up to date however, by the millennium, Janet’s problem was to supply outfits applicable for the early 50s – and that was and isn’t any imply activity, significantly since there’s a complete change of forged each six months. “It means I’ve to watch out. If

I had all the pieces made for every new actor, the fee can be prohibitive. However because it’s English nation fashion, I can usually purchase the proper outfits – significantly for the boys – as a result of you’ll be able to nonetheless pay money for basic tweedy fits and jackets.

“There are conventional tailoring corporations that proceed to inventory these objects.”

Janet, 58, tends to not frequent secondhand retailers, she says, as a result of the garments are much less prone to put on nicely.

“A swimsuit, for instance, has acquired to final for about 400 performances.”

Among the ladies’s put on, nonetheless, must be made to measure.

“The main girl, Mollie, for example, wears a 50s-style day gown that you just would not have the ability to discover now. It is mid-blue with three-quarter size sleeves, button-through with a full skirt and a trim on each the sleeves and the collar. And, in fact, every actress in that position is a unique form and dimension so it is not as if the gown might be handed on.”

Many anecdotes have connected themselves to this evergreen theatrical establishment, some apocryphal, some not. A favorite is that of the London cabbie and the bombastic American vacationer.

Having hailed a taxi and instructed the driving force to take him to the St Martin’s Theatre, the passenger stored up a continuing stream of crucial invective concerning the cabbie’s chosen route and the velocity at which they have been travelling.

When the American was finally deposited exterior The Mousetrap, he gave the driving force the precise fare however no tip.

As he approached the lobby, the cabbie beckoned him again. “By the best way,” he referred to as out of his window, “I do know whodunit.”

And proceeded to inform him.