ComedyDramaNorth East & YorkshireReview

Cluedo – The Grand Theatre, Leeds

Reviewer: Jay Nuttall

Writer:  Sandy Rustin

Director: Mark Bell

Was it Colonel Mustard with the revolver in the study? Or perhaps Miss Scarlett in the billiard room with the lead piping? Entrenched into British vocabulary these characters and murder weapons have formed many of our childhood pastimes on rainy Sunday afternoons. The board game on which this play is based needs no introduction. This Cluedo, though, is a whodunnit of silly proportions.

Taking Jonathan Lynn’s screenplay from the magnificent 1985 film Clue, writer Sandy Ruskin has relocated the action from 1950s America embroiled in McCarthyism to post war 1940s Britain as Westminster replaces Washington. It is a dark and stormy night as each of the characters (introduced via their pseudonyms) arrive at Boddy Manor, greeted by butler Wadsworth, clutching their mysterious dinner party invitation from an unknown host. The reason for their congregation soon becomes clear with the arrival of their blackmailer, Mr Boddy, who gifts a weapon to each of his guests thus sparking off a night of killings. With bodies piling up it isn’t a question of where they were murdered and with what – but who and why!

The play has been placed in the hands of director Mark Bell who has track history with the incredibly successful Mischief Theatre’s The Play That Goes Wrong and A Comedy About a Bank Robbery. Much of the cast he has assembled have similar credits and it is this style of farcical silliness that Bell has tried to achieve. The murders are preposterous, the characters caricatures and the entire premise farcical. It has all the ingredients to be another hit on the scale Mischief Theatre reached a few years ago. Unfortunately, the bullet from the revolver doesn’t quite hit its mark.

The cast are largely excellent. Wesley Griffith’s not so bright Colonel Mustard is often the butt of the joke as he gets the wrong end of the stick. Daniel Casey’s pompous Professor Plum is well matched to Judith Amsenga’s near always hysterical Mrs Peacock and Tom Babbage has some fine slapstick business as the accident prone, nervous Reverend Green. Each have big shoes to fill given the tremendous cast of the 1985 film that has enjoyed cult status for nearly forty years. The largest challenge, however, is reserved for Jean-Luke Worrell as Wadsworth – the lynchpin to the evening’s events and fulcrum to the stage show. Worrell is excellent in the highly physical role – channelling much of the energy of the film’s Wadsworth, Tim Curry, with his broad smile and slightly menacing stare as he breaks the fourth wall.

The show is let down in its pacing. It is perhaps due to David Farley’s design. Great as it is, with Wadsworth almost peeling back walls to reveal a new room, it slows down the action in a production that needs speed. Often the cast are transporting chairs and a hat stand from room to room or repeating the end of the previous scene as they ‘move’ into a different space. Bell does build the farce to a crescendo (helped by Worrell’s scene stealing recap of the entire story) but it falls short of where it could get to. The verbal wordplay in Johnathan Lynn’s screenplay is pleasingly kept but some more oddball gags that most likely worked well in the rehearsal room don’t quite translate into performance. Tonally, it doesn’t quite rest in an identifiable space meaning the audience don’t always have license to go on some of the more absurd elements Bell and the cast want them to embrace.

For those unfamiliar with the film version Cluedo is a very entertaining night at the theatre. Despite some best efforts, it doesn’t quite have the energy needed to encapsulate the out of control and madcap farce it has the potential to be because of some of the creative choices made.

Runs until 26th March 2022

The Reviews Hub Score

Misses the Mark

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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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