Shuddering Suspense In Sunderland

Issue 44

Agatha Christie's The Mousetrap will be playing Sunderland Empire from 28 February - 2 March. Northern Insight meets former Only Fools and Horses star Gwyneth Strong who talks about what the audience can expect from this classic murder mystery.

How do you feel to be performing in the new UK tour of The Mousetrap?

Very excited. Opportunities like this come out of the blue and I was really delighted to be asked to be a part of the show. At the time, I was probably one of the very few people from all of the millions to have never actually seen it, but when I settled down to read the script I was immediately hooked. Now, whenever I tell people I’m in The Mousetrap I receive such a positive response and everybody has a tale to tell about it.

What can audiences expect from The Mousetrap?

A chance to be a part of history! This is the West End’s longest running show at 67 years and a good old murder mystery from the Queen of Crime herself, Agatha Christie. If you like a good thriller, you won’t be disappointed.

Were you previously an Agatha Christie fan?

I’ve always wanted to perform an Agatha Christie and a period piece of theatre so this is the perfect fit. One of the things I really notice and admire from her body of work is that she’s very good at writing interesting women. When you consider the time in which she was writing it’s quite fascinating.

What is your favourite element of Mrs Boyle? Do you share any character traits?

I love Mrs Boyle’s anger, she’s very funny and bombastic. I wish I shared her confidence at being that angry but I’m the opposite, I bury any anger and let it out at all the wrong times. I really admire that she’s in the moment, she’s angry and she’s not afraid to let you know it.

How does it feel to become part of such an iconic play as The Mousetrap?

It feels amazing. When I was very young, I met and worked with a fantastic actress called Kathleen Byron who went into The Mousetrap and she told me then, over 40 years ago, that it was a very long running show. I can’t quite believe that now I’m in it!

Many people will remember you as Cassandra from Only Fools and Horses. What was is like being in one of the biggest British TV sitcoms of the time?

It was a hugely rewarding experience and a big part of my life. When I started I was already a fan of the show and I didn’t realise I would be in it for a length of time – I thought I was just doing two episodes. I had never done a sitcom before and I learnt on the job from two of the very best with David and Nick. I did my first episode over 30 years ago and people still approach me now saying they love it and that their kids now love it too. It’s a tribute to the writer John Sullivan that the comedy has transcended all this time. Do you have a preference to performing on stage or screen?

I love all aspects of acting and, for me, it’s about doing something different every time. I started in the theatre when I was 10 years old and I always try to return to the stage and not let it go too long without doing a play. It’s a different sort of muscle that you need to keep exercising.

What are you most looking forward to about touring across the country?

I think there’s a bit of a joke between women of my age that we say we go on tour to get away from everything and have a break. It’s nice to completely immerse yourself in a job, to get on the road and have a break from domesticity. I always like going to new towns and cities, visiting the local beauty spots and galleries, and I often use the time to do some writing as well.

Why should people come and see The Mousetrap?

Just ask anybody and they’ll say you have to see it. Everybody who has seen it seems to absolutely love it and really take to it. I think it also gets reinvented with every cast so there’s always something new to take away from it too.

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