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Original 'Mousetrap' in English

SHANGHAI loves Agatha Christie and "The Unexpected Guest" is now on stage. "The Mousetrap" (in English) arrives next month. Michelle Zhang holds her breath. Detective theater productions, especially Agatha Christie whodunits, are so popular in Shanghai these days that even London's Mousetrap Productions Ltd has noticed the surge.

In cooperation with Shanghai Modern People's Theater, the English theater company will bring to town the original cast of Christie's "The Mousetrap" (1952) from London's West End. It will be in English with Chinese subtitles.

For the first time, actors from St Martin's Theater, home to "The Mousetrap," will perform the murder classic in another country.

Starting from January 21, 12 performances will be staged in the city's historic Lyceum Theater.

According to Zhang Yu, director of Shanghai Modern People's Theater, plays by Agatha Christie (1890-1976) are more often performed in Shanghai than in any other city in recent years.

The theater company has staged a series of mysteries by the Britain's "Queen of Crime Fiction," including "The Mousetrap," "And Then There Were None" and "Appointment with Death," all performed in Chinese.

"We hope that the collaboration this time will help to attract more classic Western theater companies to perform in Shanghai," Zhang says.

Among all Christie's works, "The Mousetrap" is probably the most famous. Opening at the Ambassadors Theater in November 1952, it holds the record as the longest-running show in the world. After its 8,862nd performance on the evening of March 23, 1974, it transferred to its current home, the St Martin's Theater, on March 25, 1974.

"The world's longest-running theater show of any kind sets a new world record with every performance?- we will soon reach 24,000 in London - so it is exciting to be innovative in Shanghai at the same time," says Sir Stephen Waley-Cohen, producer of "The Mousetrap" since 1994.

"We hope that the Shanghai audiences will enjoy them as much as the many millions who have seen 'The Mousetrap' in London, as well as the millions more who have seen it in nearly 50 other languages worldwide and that all of them will maintain the tradition of 'The Mousetrap' by keeping the secret of 'whodunit' locked in their hearts."

Acclaimed as "the cleverest murder mystery of the British theater" by the Daily Telegraph and "a truly entertaining classic thriller" by the Sunday Times, "The Mousetrap" is known for its twist ending, which at the end of every performance, the audience is solemnly requested not to reveal.

In Shanghai, the play was first translated into Chinese and staged in 1981. Ever since then, more than 300 performances of "The Mousetrap" in Chinese have been staged.

Meanwhile, another Christie's classic play, "The Unexpected Guest," made its premiere in the city last night.

The play first opened in the West End at the Duchess Theater on August 12, 1958. Although it was originally a theater play, it has been brought to the big screen several times in Japan, India and Italy, thanks to its intriguing story. In 1999, British writer Charles Osborne adapted it into a novel.

When Michael Starkwedder enters the home of the Warwicks on a foggy night, he finds the dead body of Richard Warsick, and finds his wife, Laura, holding a gun that supposedly killed him. Laura first admits that she killed her husband but later she claims to be innocent.

Everyone in the house is suspicious, from Warwick's brother to his old mother, from Laura's lover to the housekeeper.

The play gathers actors from Shanghai Drama Arts Center, including veterans Lu Liang, Song Yining and Cao Lei, as well as young actors Jia Jinghui and Xie Chengying. It is performed in Chinese without English subtitles.

"The Unexpected Guest"

Date: through February 7 (closed on Mondays), 7:30pm

Tickets: 120-200 yuan (half price for students)

Tel: 6473-0123

Venue: Shanghai Drama Arts Theater, 288 Anfu Rd

"The Mousetrap"

Date: January 21-Feburary 3 (closed on Mondays), 7:30pm

Tickets: 120-380 yuan

Tel: 6422-0926

Venue: Shanghai Lyceum Theater, 57 Maoming Rd S.


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