Small House of Everything

Small House of Everything

Friday, December 29, 2017


The Mousetrap and Other Plays by Agatha Christie (1978)

Eight of Dame Agatha's murderous plays are included in this collection.

The title play (based on Christie's short story "Three Blind Mice," which, in turn, was based on a short 1947 radio play) opened on London's West End in 1952 and has been running continuously ever since -- over 27,000 performances!  It is the longest running initial run of any play in history.  Thater-goers are asked not to reveal the twist ending.  Per Agatha Christie's instructions, only one other production of the play is allowed to be performed each year and the short story "Three Blind Mice" is not allowed to be published in England until the play has been closed for six months (although it has been published in the United States in the collection Three Blind Mice and Other 1950, two years before the play opened.  The Mousetrtap was based on the real-life case of Dennis O'Neill, who died at the hands of abusive foster parents in 1945.

Ten Little Indians (1943), is a classic Christie story that was adapted from her 1939 novel.  The play, like the novel, had the (unfortunate) original title of Ten Little Niggers; it was later changed to And Then There None; and finally to the present title.  Christie altered the ending for the play.

Witness for the Prosecution (1953) is based on 1925 story "Traitor Hands."  The story got its present title in Christie's 1933 British collection The Hound of Death; it appeared in the United States in the 1948 collection Witness for the Prosecution and Other Stories.  The story is perhaps best known for the 1957 film version with Charles Laughton, Marlene Dietrich, and Elsa Lanchester.  The play won the New York Drama Critics circle Award as best foreign play.

Three of the plays are based on Hecule Poirot novels, although the stage adaptations omit the little Belgian and his magnificent gray cells.   Appointment with Death (1945) is based on Christie's 1935 mystery and takes place in Jerusalem and a traveler's camp in Petra.  The character of Miss Price was created by Joan Hickson, who would go to play Christie's Miss Marple 39 years later.  The Hollow (1951) is adapted from her 1946 novel and deals with the murder of a self-centered doctor during a weekend party on an estate; an unintentional death closes the play. Go Back for Murder (1960) comes from the 1942 novel Five Little Pigs (U.S. title Murder in Retrospect).  In the play, Poirot is replaced by a young lawyer, Justin Fogg.

Towards Zero (1956) is based on Christie's 1944 novel -- the last of three to featured Superintendent Battle of Scotland Yard and concerns the murder of Lady Tressilian and a fiendish plot to destroy another.

The one original play in the collection is Verdict (1958).  Unusual for a Christie play, the murder actually takes place onstage.  Dame Agatha said, "I still think it is the best play I have written with the exception of Witness for the Prosecution."

It's interesting to see how the author manages to make to transformation from novel or short story to the stage.  All eight plays make for enjoyable reading.  Christie still remains the queen of them all.


  1. I haven't read a play in ages. This might be the ignition to get me started again!

  2. AND THEN THERE WERE NONE was the title settled on for most of the recent editions of the novel. "TEN LITTLE [X}" reflected the UK and US versions of the playground song. Ah, the Good Old Days of lynching and such. So innocent.