Agatha Christie’s classic ‘whodunnit’ The Mousetrap opened on London’s West End in November 1952 and has since played over 24,000 performances, making it the longest-running stage show of any kind in the world.

A new all-Australian production of the show, now playing at Sydney Theatre ahead of a national tour, is one of 60 professional productions licensed worldwide in celebration of the show’s 60th anniversary. Speaking to lead actor Gus Murray on the eve of opening night, we were eager to hear if he had a theory for the show’s overwhelming popularity.

“I have to admit, I was desperate to know why this particular play had run so much longer than any other in the world. It’s a classic Agatha Christie, so it’s got the intrigue and suspense built into a murder mystery of this type, but at its heart it’s also about people, and it’s about the psychology of this group of eight people who are snowed in together at this guesthouse,” he said.

Murray and castmate Christy Sullivan play Giles and Mollie Raston, a young married couple who’ve recently converted an abandoned manor into a guesthouse and are eagerly awaiting their first batch of guests. They’re far too busy preparing to notice the radio reports of a killer on the loose in the area, and once their guests arrive they find they’ve been lumped with rather an odd assortment of social misfits – any of whom could be a cold-blooded killer.

One of the keys to The Mousetrap’s enduring success is the effort the cast goes to to keep the traditional ‘whodunit’ plot twist under wraps. At the end of each performance, an actor asks the audience to keep the play’s twist a secret and ‘lock it away in your hearts’.

It’s something of a novel concept in today’s theatre-going culture, where audience members all but live tweet from the aisles in the quest to let their voice be heard.

“It’s a bit of fun, and it makes the audience complicit in keeping this iconic story under wraps,” Murray said.

“But even beyond the plot twist, I think people will get a lot out of the show. You slip back into a very interesting time period – post-war England, where everyone’s trying to re-establish their lives and figure out where they fit into society.”

While Sydney audiences will have most recently seen Murray in a very different role – baring all as a beer-swilling, football playing alpha male in the Darlinghurst Theatre’s production of 10,000 Beers – he’s continuing to carve out a niche as a suave period actor with a supporting role in Baz Luhrmann’s 3D epic The Great Gatsby. Murray plays one of the hard-partying friends of bored socialite Jordan Baker – a role that involved “a lot of swanning about at parties drinking martinis”.

“You never know until it’s released how many of your scenes make it in, but I did watch a lot of the playbacks on set – with the 3D glasses on too – and it looks phenomenal.

“It looks like an unlikely choice for 3D, but when you see the parties and costumes come to life, it’s beautiful.”

INFO: The Mousetrap, Sydney Theatre until July 29 then touring nationally. www.themousetrap.com.au

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