ComedyFeaturedReviewSouth East

Cluedo 2 – The Next Chapter – Theatre Royal Brighton

Reviewer: Thom Punton

Written by: Maurice Gran and Laurence Marks

Directed by: Mark Bell

It’s not completely clear whether Maurice Gran and Laurence Marks’ Cluedo 2 is a sequel of the 1985 film (Clue) or the board game itself. Most likely the title is another self-referential joke in what is an evening replete with such humour. Tonight’s onstage world runs on exaggerated gasps, innuendoes contrived to the nth degree and it’s peopled with a cast of stereotypes so conceited they’re as capable of murder as deserving of it. Yes, it’s a rehash with familiar characters in a murder-inducing mansion, and just like when you get the Cluedo board out of the cupboard, you know what you’re going to get, but you can also be safe in the knowledge that it’s going to be a perfectly enjoyable – and silly – way to spend an evening.

Cluedo 2 is set in the sixties. Rick Black is a rock star past his prime who has invited his colourfully named guests to his mansion to help him revive his career. But (spoiler alert if you’ve never played the game…) the character with the surname Black does not survive for long, setting in motion a clamour to find the murderer and prevent a slide into further madness and mayhem.

As well as the characters from the board game, we meet Wadsworth the butler, who originally appeared in the film, played by Tim Curry. However, tonight he’s not actually a butler, he’s an actor come to play a butler in an advert Rick Black plans to film. Jack Bennett perfectly portrays a method actor who so fully inhabits his character that eventually he just gives up insisting he’s not a butler and serves everyone their drinks, as if he can’t help but be swept away by his own convincing performance. The rest of the characters are all just as awful in their own delicious, hilarious ways.

Miss Scarlett (a shrill Ellie Leach) is the youthful seductress ostensibly there as Black’s interior designer, who, aware of her character’s less than feminist stereotype, asserts the right of women to be accused of murder, instantly convincing everyone else of her guilt. Mrs. White (Dawn Buckland, confident, matriarchal) is the salt-of-the-earth housekeeper, the wise fool of the piece. Colonel Mustard is a moustachioed American whose accent is so garbled by Jason Durr that it’s sometimes on the edge of comprehension. In more skilled hands it could have been intentionally exaggerated for comedic effect, because we are in the land of glorious, anything-goes farce here. When the silliness is ramped up, as it is in the second half, the fun is sublimely chaotic. Glancing around the old-timey glamour of Brighton’s Theatre Royal one is momentarily swept back to the music hall comedy of the non-specific past, with the audience roaring with laughter at each theatrical wink and mannerism.

The set design is virtuosic with doors, bookcases, tables, chairs, recording desks, all unfolding into the different iconic rooms of the Cluedo mansion. Rather than lowering the lights and having stage hands shuffle about in the dark, the actors rearrange the sets between scenes themselves to a cheeky sixties-style soundtrack composed by director Mark Bell and sound designer Jon Fiber. These interludes are so beautifully choreographed (by Anna Healey) they often elicit applause and make a virtue of what is usually an off-putting glimpse of behind-the-scenes mechanics. In the fluid, interlocking movements of people and props there’s a reference to the kind of psychedelic imagery where one thing morphs into another and perspectives are upended.

Cluedo 2 is lovingly made and beautifully produced, a knowing spoof that manages to be hilarious and irreverent whilst keeping you intrigued with its twisting, ridiculous mysteries.

Runs until Saturday 23 March 2024

The Reviews Hub Score

Sublimely chaotic spoof

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