Drawing: Arabella Neale and Emily Plumtree in The Mousetrap

Autographed drawing of Arabella Neale in The Mousetrap at St Martin's Theatre on London's West EndAutographed drawing of Emily Plumbtree in The Mousetrap at St Martin's Theatre on London's West End

Continuing my recent ritual of rendering the roles of Miss Casewell, the proprietor of Monkswell Manor and the strange, aloof Molly Ralston after each cast change in Agatha Christie’s classic murder mystery THE MOUSETRAP at St Martin’s Theatre in London, I caught up with Arabella Neale and Emily Plumtree just before Christmas, who both kindly signed their respective sketches. Described as the ‘best-selling novelist of all time’, Dame Agatha initially wrote the play for radio in the late 1940’s, calling it THREE BLIND MICE. With the title changed, THE MOUSETRAP opened in the West End in 1952 and now, in its 67th year, is the longest initial run of any play in the history of modern theatre, passing 27,500 performances in September last year.

Amongst Arabella’s high profile stage roles, are Madame Thernardier in LES MISERABLES, Beatrice in MUCH ADO ABOUT NOTHING and the Duchess in THE DUCHESS OF MALFI. She recently featured in the award-winning BBC television mini-series A VERY ENGLISH SCANDAL opposite Hugh Grant.

ENDEAVOUR, HOLYOAKS and DOCTORS are among Emily’s list of small-screen credits. Her theatre work includes the part of Nerissa in the Royal Shakespeare Company’s production of THE MERCHANT OF VENICE, which she reprised at the Almeida Theatre in London, both directed by Rupert Goold. She was nominated for an Off West End Theatre Award for her performance as Anita in MY GIRL 2.

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Drawing: Phoebe Fildes in The Mousetrap

Autographed drawing of Phoebe Fildes in The Mousetrap at St Martin's Theatre on London's West End

Agatha Christie’s legendary whodunit THE MOUSETRAP is the world’s longest-running play in modern times, since starting at the Ambassadors Theatre on the 25th November 1952. In 1974 it transferred next door to its current residency, the St Martin’s Theatre.

In that time many different casts have appeared. The original included Sir Richard Attenborough as Detective Sergeant Trotter and his wife, Sheila Sim as Mollie Ralston. The contemporary cast changes regularly and the current one began in April this year.

Over the past few years I have drawn a couple of characters after each changeover. Mollie, the proprietor of Monkswell Manor, where the action is set, is one I have concentrated on. When passing the theatre last month I noticed that Phoebe Fildes was playing Mollie. I had met her at the Vaudeville earlier this year when she was Lady Stutfield in Oscar Wilde’s A WOMAN OF NO IMPORTANCE and she signed my cast drawing.

Phoebe also played the Girl in the musical ONCE at the Phoenix Theatre and spent two years with the Shakespeare’s Globe’s world tour taking HAMLET to every country on earth with multiple roles, including Ophelia, Gertrude and Horatio. So I had to do a quick sketch of her as Mollie from the publicity stills in front of the theatre, which signed it for me.

Drawing: The Mousetrap

The Mousetrap

It’s the longest running play in the world. Agatha Christie’s classic ‘whodunnit’ THE MOUSETRAP is into it’s 64th year, opening on London’s West End in 1952. It has run continuously since it’s 25 November opening. Starting at The Ambassadors Theatre, it  moved next door to the larger St Martin’s in March 1974, without skipping a performance, which numbered 25,000 on 18 November 2012.

For some of those years I have been meaning to do a sketch to pay homage to it’s endurance and longevity. In fact my rendering urges began as far back as the early 1990’s. The  murder mystery’s cast has changed regularly since the original production, which included Sir Richard Attenborough. It was only a matter of finding out the cast members, which number 8 and do the deed. Over time I have made half-hearted attempts, but last December I was determined to complete the task.

I found out the cast and collected production snaps from various sources, including the theatre stills and drew my MOUSETRAP montage. Playing the parts of Molly and Giles Ralston, Christopher Wren, Mrs Boyle, Major Metcalf, Miss Casewell, Mr Paravicini and Detective Sergeant Trotter were, in no particular order, Claire Cartwright, Eleanor Cox, Henry Devas, Timothy Knightly, Phillip Langthorne. Audrey Palmer, Robert Rees and Ian Targett. I duly drew the aforementioned  and wrote a covering letter, explaining my elongated mission. Just before I was about to complete the sketch I checked to make sure the cast were still appearing. They were not! They finished their run the day before. Curses. The nearly completed sketch is attached below as evidence.

The incoming cast for the 2016 season were already on the boards. Eddie Eyre, Emma Deegan, Rob Heanley, Philip Cox, Eunice Roberts, Jocasta King, Timothy O’Hara and Laurence Kennedy quickly found their characters scribbled in 4B across a clean A4 sheet and delivered to them in a not-so-plain brown envelope. They all signed it. Mission accomplished.

The Mousetrap 2