Sowing a Seed of doubt in timeless classic Mousetrap

Graham Seed (Major Metcalfe) in the 60th anniversary UK tour of The Mousetrap. ''Photo by Helen Maybanks
Graham Seed (Major Metcalfe) in the 60th anniversary UK tour of The Mousetrap. ''Photo by Helen Maybanks

TO celebrate its record-breaking 60-year run in the West End, The Mousetrap is touring the UK for the first time.

Scheduled for 60 weeks, it continues to play to sold-out houses, while the 60 licensed productions around the world continue to set records of their own.

For one of the cast coming to the Sheffield Lyceum next week in Agatha Christie’s famous whodunnit the anniversary represents something of a coincidence.

Graham Seed, who played Nigel Pargetter in The Archers until the character was controversially killed off two years ago, notes: “When they pushed me off the roof it was the dramatic moment to mark the 60th anniversary of The Archers.

“The extraordinary thing is that since then I have been busier than ever and have been almost constantly touring in the theatre,” he says in case anyone was wondering if there’s been life after Nigel.

The Mousetrap surrounds a group of people gathered in a country house cut off by the snow who discover that there is a murderer in their midst. One by one the suspicious characters reveal their sordid pasts until the guilty party and the motive are finally revealed.

Seed, who plays a retired army major in The Mousetrap, observes: “There’s something frightfully cosy about it. It’s now a period piece which makes it helpful for the actors. The characters are written in primary colours which is probably the polite way of putting it. But Dame Agatha certainly knows how to write a whodunnit.

“Major Metcalfe, on the face of it, is this brusque ex-military stiff upper lip type who says things like a woman’s place is in the kitchen but he’s not what he seems. None of the suspects are.

“It’s nice to be playing a suspect. I remember playing detectives In these sort of things and he does all the talking, describing the plot.

“It’s an ensemble piece (former EastEnders Steven France, Elizabeth Power, Jemma Walker and Clare Wilkie, Karl Howman from Brush Strokes and the Flash TV commercials, ex-Corrie Bruno Langley and Bob Saul from the West End production make up the cast) and that’s good too.

“Last year I was Jim Hacker in one of those endless tours of Yes, Prime Minister and you have to work so hard because there are two big roles. And, of course, everyone associates them with Paul Eddington and Nigel Hawthorne. Funnily enough, no one thinks of who originally played Major Metcalfe.”

There is a different challenge with The Mousetrap. “I started last September and we go on to the end of June so it’s a long haul and the challenge is sustaining a natural enthusiasm for a long run. But it’s not hard when you are playing to full houses so I am really enjoying it.”

Over the winter months the snowbound setting must sometimes reflect the real conditions. “When I come on I’m covered in a sprinkling of snow and the first thing I say is ‘it’s an absolute blizzard out there’. When we were in Bath that got a huge laugh because of the weather outside although our snow is from a machine.”

Graham Seed is not lost to the radio airwaves entirely, incidentally. On Sundays, his day off, he often manages to fit in recordings of What the Papers Say on Radio 4. “We turn up at two o’clock on a Sunday, four actors and a political journalist, and we work out who is going to read what. I tend to have a lot of right-wing newspapers and politicians of similar persuasion. It’s good fun.”

The Mousetrap is at the Lyceum next week from Monday to Saturday.