Original Screenplay: Jonathan Lynn
Writer: Sandy Rustin
Director: Mark Bell
There’s something in everyone’s wardrobes which causes family feuds, and it’s not that hideous vase you got for the wedding. No, for any age, across multiple generations – Cluedo has sat in the closet, brought out for rainy days or wine-fuelled game nights, and allowed the entire household to play the part of detective. Remade time over, transformed into life-size escape rooms, and a 1985 Tim Curry classic feature film with multiple endings, the concept of a Cluedo stage show is a no brainer, and really, there’s only one question… who dun it?
A life-sized board, David Farley’s staging sets a scene, utilising perspective to conjure the grand hallways of Body Manor – initially, it seems plain. Magnificently though, this stage unfurls just like the board game, with branching rooms to fit in with the aesthetic as our unfortunate six attempts to figure out why they have been brought to the Manor, and just who is responsible for the murder(s).
Six guests, you know them well, from the pious Reverend Green to decadent and pickled Mrs Peacock, six possible murder weapons, six rooms for crimes to be committed. You’ll undoubtedly become invested as this ambitious staging from one of the directors of The Play That Goes Wrong captures the charm of the board game, the manic nature of the film, and course, the chaos only an alumnus of Mischief Theatre could achieve.
Entering Body Manor as strangers, there’s certainly a familiar face or two for audiences – with Michelle Collin’s Miss Scarlett taking a large part of the production’s story and puzzle-solving aspects. With Daniel Casey’s thoughtful Professor Plum, and Harry Bradley’s multiple roles, Cluedo benefits from a competent cast under tight direction from Mark Bell. And though the script may lean heavily into cliché, what else would you suspect? Casey and Laura Kirman’s Maid Yvette are handed some of the show’s more obvious gags – and yet somehow turn them into absolute blinders, Kirman turning in a choice performance as the *Ahem* French maid.
Joining director Bell as a previous victim of the Play That Goes Wrong, Tom Babbage has frequently proved himself a ragdoll of physical comedy, and Reverend Green is no different. Often the victim of misfortunate door openings or fast-paced skits, the physicality and timing Babbage provides is the benchmark from much of the cast to match. Together with Judith Amsenga and Wesley Griffiths, the trio inhabit their character’s effortless, Amsenga quite frankly terrifying in her transformation into the elderly wife of a noted MP – the body language a superb addition for others in the cast to react off.
There’s a performance or two which feel less theatrical and more for the screen – where the expressive nature can’t quite reach the backs of the theatre, and where the annunciation feels slightly off compared to the rounded, inflated performances surrounding them, where it’s one thing to play straight in a comedy, and another to fail to match the levels of those around. And where the unrestrained nature of Jean-Luke Worrell’s scene-stealing solo moments or the slow build of unexpected bombastic energy from Etisyai Phillips Miss White occur, there’s a bit to be desired from some of our other murdering houseguests.
And while we cannot guarantee you’ll survive the night, there is a safe bet that you’ll be entertained with the enticing comedic brilliance of Cluedo. The ingenious set, captivating under Warren Letton’s lighting design, Cluedo makes for a colourfully inventive piece of comedic theatre, keeping a few tricks up its sleeves, and a glint of bloodlust in its eyes.
Runs until 14 May 2022 | Image: Craig Sugden