DramaNorth East & YorkshireReview

Cluedo 2 – Lyceum Theatre, Sheffield

Reviewer: Ruth Jepson

Writer: Lawrence Marks and Maurice Gran

Director: Mark Bell

Making a theatre show based on a boardgame is certainly a challenge, although Cluedo at least has the built-in scaffolding of a classic murder mystery. In 1985 Jonathan Lynn managed to make a cult classic film, and a few years ago an adaptation by Sandy Rustin, directed by Mark Bell of The Play That Goes Wrong fame, bottled lightening and successfully translated that to stage for the original Cluedo theatrical tour, which was a cavalcade of calamity and comedy, a side splitter of a show with suitably slick scene changes and a stellar cast and story. Can Bell, now teamed up with writers Lawrence Marks and Maurice Gran, do it again with Cluedo 2?

Unfortunately, no.

Everyone knows how the game works – six colourful suspects gather in an English manor house following the death of the owner Mr Black. Move around the board, visiting rooms, to work out the location, murderer and murder weapon, and the first person to guess all three and make a formal accusation wins. Families across the world have turned to this amateur sleuthing to avoid the inevitable arguments involved with playing Monopoly. For Cluedo 2 the plot is similar, but the traditional 1940s design has jumped forward to 1968, as indicated by David Farley’s wonderful costumes, which lean into the stereotypes and expectations of the era, and juxtapose nicely against the classic look of the stage, created by ever moving set pieces which fluidly shift around to create all the well know potential crime scenes of the boardgame (handily signified by a light up board in the far background). So visually the show is a treat.

Sadly, the same cannot be said of the plot or a large chunk of the action. While Cluedo 2 does include a lot of laughs and genuinely funny jokes, they all feel a little tonally dissonant. The acting is purposefully farcical, with overexaggerated movements and outlandish accents, and technically very tight, but then a character will reveal their Vietnam PTSD or their quest to gain child support for an ignored offspring as others gurn away in the background. The mysterious secrets of each character are either outright stated or painfully obvious from the start. Gags are repeated again and again until they become entirely unfunny (and if you’re not up to date on your Al Green lyrics then half of them will fly over your head anyway). The ending is predictable from almost the beginning of Act 2.

Although the scene changes masterfully show case the idea of a large and twisting manor house without having to actually be inside one, they go on forever and are clearly padding the run time of an already short show, a painstakingly obvious attempt to cover for a disappointingly thin plot. It’s unclear if it’s bad direction, bad writing, or bad acting but the whole show feels like you’re watching somewhat talented amateurs rather than professional theatre makers. The exceptions to the mediocre acting pool are Liam Horrigan (Rick Black and many others) who is channelling Russel Brand and Matt Berry to great affect; Hannah Boyce (Mrs Peacock) as his perfectly acerbic widow; and Dawn Buckland (Mrs White) whose comedy timing is second to none.

Shows based on existing properties are hard to pull off, and sequels to shows based on existing properties are even harder. There may be 324 winning combinations in the boardgame, but it must be hoped that Bell doesn’t wish to attempt all of them on stage.

Runs until Saturday 18 May 2024

The Reviews Hub Score

Sloppy seconds

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The Reviews Hub - Yorkshire & North East

The Yorkshire & North East team is under the editorship of Jacob Bush. The Reviews Hub was set up in 2007. Our mission is to provide the most in-depth, nationwide arts coverage online.

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