FOR more than half a century Agatha Christie’s The Mousetrap has been the world’s longest-running stage production. As the show prepares to come to two local theatres, Christie’s grandson MATHEW PRICHARD talks about his famous grandmother.
I SUPPOSE it took some time for it to sink in that I had a famous grandmother known to the world as Agatha Christie. I first remember her during the years when I was at preparatory school and her house at Wallingford was nearby. We used to have “exeats” on Sunday and it was then that the first glimmers of truth came through.
Very sensibly, the headmaster of my school insisted on initialling all books that came into school. I came back from Wallingford clutching the latest Agatha Christie and wondering whether the head could possibly find any reason for withholding the coveted signature. He never did. There was, however, one occasion when my book took a terribly long time to re-appear. Later, I realised the head’s wife had taken the opportunity to read it.
In such small ways, therefore, did I become aware that I had a talented grandmother. Not that it made a great deal of difference to me. She was just a marvellous grandmother and someone nice to have around.
There were three things which, more than anything else, endeared her to me. The first was her modesty. To the outside world I suppose this appeared as shyness, but to us she was always infinitely more interested in what we were thinking and doing than herself.
She could manage to write a book almost without one noticing and sometimes she used to read the new one to us in the summer down in Devonshire. We all tried to guess, and my mother was the only one who was ever right. Most of my friends who met her during those years were quite astonished that such a mild, gentle grandmother could really be the authoress of all those stories of intrigue, murder and jealousy.
Her next great characteristic was her generosity. It is now well-known that she gave me The Mousetrap for my ninth birthday. I do not remember much about the presentation, but it is worth remembering that my grandmother had been through many times when money was not so plentiful. It was therefore incredibly generous of her to give away such a play to her grandson.
The third thing I enjoyed was her enthusiasm. She was an exciting person to be with because she always tried to look on the good side of things and people. She always found something to enthuse about.
The Mousetrap, starring Michael Fenner as Mr Paravicini comes to the Hexagon in Reading from February 10 to 15 (call 0118 960 6060 or visit www.readingarts.com/thehexagon) and to the Wycombe Swan Theatre from July 7 to 12. Call 01494 512000 or visit www.wycombeswan.co.uk/