Cluedo – Belgrade Theatre, Coventry

Reviewer: Selwyn Knight

Writer: Sandy Rustin
Director: Mark Bell

We’ve all played Cluedo, the game where we try to mislead our fellow players while simultaneously discovering who killed whom, with what and where – with a different outcome every time. The game was first played in 1949, which also happens to be when the stage show, loosely based on the game, is set – creepy coincidence, eh?

Our six characters – Reverend Green, Colonel Mustard, Mrs Peacock, Professor Plum, Miss Scarlett and Miss White – have been summoned to Boddy Manor one stormy night. Ostensibly, their colours are pseudonyms to protect their real identities because it soon becomes clear that each has a secret they want to keep hidden and each is being blackmailed by Mr Boddy, the Manor’s owner. They’re greeted by the frankly weird butler, Wadsworth, and the evening begins.

What follows is supremely well-done farce in which the two-dimensional characters somehow come to life. Imagine a mash-up comprising the silliness of Airplane! the physicality of The Play That Goes Wrong and the plotting of And Then There Were None and you’re maybe halfway to knowing Cluedo. It’s full of quickfire witty dialogue, running gags and terrific sight gags – the realisation of the hidden passage is a joy. And it’s maybe no surprise to learn that Director, Mark Bell, also directed The Play That Goes Wrong or that several cast members have it or other Mischief titles on their CVs.

David Farley’s ingenious set is largely open but with panels that swing open to allow us to peek inside the different rooms. The movement of the cast is expertly choreographed by Movement Director, Anna Healey. It’s quite mesmerising to watch them move around and between rooms carrying various items with them as they go while occasionally striking poses in fixed tableaux, all with stupendously good timing. There’s plenty of mugging and doors opening and closing in the best of farcical tradition. The whole is fast-moving and, above all, genuinely funny.

At the centre is the slightly mysterious, but definitely outrageously camp, portrayal of Wadsworth by Jean-Luke Worrell. His physicality is terrific as he milks every last drop of humour from every action: his body doesn’t seem to be quite bolted together tightly enough. His occasional knowing smiles to the audience work particularly well. Tom Babbage brings us the timid Reverend Green, also with great physicality – his reaction when a dog outside is commanded to Sit! Is brilliantly timed. Wesley Griffith’s Colonel Mustard is believably half-witted as he struggles to keep up with the action, delivering some great one-liners with a straight face. Judith Amsenga is a hoot as Mrs Peacock, channelling her inner Mrs Thatcher in the role of the wife of a prominent cabinet minister, while Daniel Casey’s incompetent Professor Plum is also well realised. Michelle Collins brings us the sultry Miss Scarlett, down to earth brothel-keeper to the stars, while Etisyai Phillips’ Mrs White with an unexpected talent for martial arts is superbly uptight. They are supported by a small ensemble cast who play the other stock characters of murder fiction – servants, passing motorists, slow-witted police – with gusto.

Cluedo doesn’t pretend to be great art – it’s far too self-aware for that. But it is a welcome diversion from the world outside showcasing a cast bursting with talent in a very well done piece. Highly commended.

Runs Until 19 March 2022 and on tour

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The Central team is under the editorship of Selwyn Knight. 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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