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Birthday Gift for Queen Mary – The Mousetrap

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Connect Comfort and Uplift

6 min read

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Birthday Gift for Queen Mary – The Mousetrap – The longest-running show in the history of the theatre wasn’t initially planned to even grace the stage. It was originally a radio play, written as a present for the queen at the time. Christie’s work was beloved around the world, with people of all backgrounds hugely invested in her work, including the wife of King George V, Queen Mary. The Mousetrap changed significantly before it hit the screen, but it began life as a different story as a royal gift. Let’s explore how The Mousetrap changed and the person it was written for.

 

Birthday Gift for Queen Mary – The Mousetrap

Mary of Teck was the Queen of the United Kingdom

Mary of Teck was the Queen of the United Kingdom and Empress of India as the wife of George V. Before his accession, she was successively Duchess of York, Duchess of Cornwall and Princess of Wales. 

Who was Queen Mary?

Mary of Teck was the Queen of the United Kingdom and the British Dominions and also Empress of India from May 1910 until January 1936. As the wife of King-Emperor George V, Mary was his consort and wasn’t a ruler in the traditional sense, much like the current queen’s late husband, Philip, Duke of Edinburgh.

Queen Mary was the granddaughter of George III and was the grandmother of our current Queen Elizabeth II. She was born on 26th May 1867 and died on 24th March 1953, before Queen Elizabeth II was coronated. She was known to be a fan of Agatha Christie’s work and requested a radio play as a birthday present.

 

Agatha Christie Three Blind Mice
Three Blind Mice was first published in the US in the May 1948 edition of Cosmopolitan magazine, and subsequently in the book Three Blind Mice and Other Stories, first published in the US by Dodd, Mead & Co in 1950. It has never been published in the UK in any format.

 

Three Blind Mice to The Mousetrap

Three Blind Mice was the original title of The Mousetrap. It was first broadcast on 30th May 1947 and starred popular actor Barry Morse. The story took inspiration from the real-life criminal case of Dennis O’Neill. O’Neill and his brother suffered extreme abuse, and he eventually died, while in foster care with a farmer and his wife in 1945. The story transformed significantly when turned into a stage play and the similarities between the two are few and far between.

The short story that the play was based on has never been published in the United Kingdom. Christie requested it remain that way until the show stopped running in the West End of London. As it is still running every single year, it doesn’t look like we will be seeing a short story version any time soon.

Similarly, a film adaptation of the play is also not possible while the stage show still runs. Once The Mousetrap was transformed into a stage play, the rights were given to another person as a birthday gift. Christie clearly enjoyed giving fantastic gifts in the form of her writing, and her grandson, Mathew Prichard, still holds all the rights to the play and there are quite strict rules attached to these. In the UK, the contract terms of the play state no film adaptation can be produced until the West End production has been closed for at least six months. This has yet to happen, aside from the Coronavirus pandemic, but the special circumstances were obviously understood.

 

Richard Attenborough and Sheila Sim in Original 1952-production The Mousetrap
The original (1952) West End cast included Richard Attenborough as Detective Sergeant Trotter and his wife Sheila Sim as Mollie Ralston.

 

Theatrical Performances of The Mousetrap

The world premiere of The Mousetrap on stage came five years after it was on the radio, shown at the Theatre Royal in Nottingham on 6th October 1952. From Nottingham it went on a tour around the UK, playing at theatres including the Alexandra Theatre in Birmingham and Royal Court in Liverpool. It then arrived in the West End for the very first time, first shown at the Ambassadors Theatre. It stayed at the Ambassadors until 23rd March 1974, over 20 years, before moving to St. Martin’s Theatre next door and reopening on 25th March. This has allowed the show to maintain its longest-running show title and the London run of the show has exceeded 26,000 performances so far.

 

WATCH AN AGATHA CHRISTIE DOCUMENTARY (YouTube 1hr 15min)

 

Agatha Christie herself never expected the play to run for so long. Her autobiography includes a mention of her believing it would run “Eight months, perhaps” but of course it has continued to run long after Christie’s death. She passed away in 1976 and the play had generated over £3m by this point, and lots more since! Her grandson has benefited significantly from his birthday present and understandably stays true to the agreements such as no film adaptations and only one run of the show in the West End at any one time.

 

The Mousetrap 70th

 

The Legacy of The Mousetrap

Queen Mary could never have imagined the short radio sketch written for her birthday would still be performed week in week out over 70 years later.

The Mousetrap itself is now in its 70th year and is still being performed across the country. It arrives at Blackpool Grand Theatre on Monday 19 June 2023, and will be here until 24 June. You can book your tickets and find out more about the famous long-running show today.

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