Reviewer: Mark Clegg
I’m Sorry I Haven’t a Clue has been a staple of BBC Radio Four’s schedules for over forty years and its massive popularity shows no signs of waning. With a basic panel game format, ‘Clue’ (as it’s known to its many fans) is simply a springboard for improvisational comedy and general silliness. The easiest way to describe it to new-comers is as a sort of audio version of Whose Line Is It Anyway? – a show that Clue predates by 15 years.
Over its history, Clue has managed to keep a pretty constant set of regular contributors and happily all of the remaining ‘cast’ are present on this tour. Comedy legend Barry Cryer and two thirds of The Goodies (Graeme Garden and Tim Brooke-Taylor) are joined by the show’s ‘most regular non-regular’ Jeremy Hardy. Colin Sell is, as always on the piano and replacing regular chairman Jack Dee for the first of only ten dates on this tour is Sandi Toksvig. Having the experience of hosting Radio Four’s The News Quiz makes Toksvig the perfect stand-in for Dee and the panellists all perform brilliantly under her watchful gaze. Despite the amount of insults thrown his way, Sell is a first-rate pianist and producer Jon Naismith makes appearances as both warm-up act and an assistant throughout.
This tour is a ‘best of’ recreation of many of the games that are played on the show and is structured exactly like an episode including the theme tune, the introduction based on the locality of the recording, innuendo laden stories about the show’s scorer Samantha (sadly unable to attend due to unfortunate and obviously very smutty -sounding circumstances), correspondence from Mrs Trellis and appearances by the characters Hamish and Dougal.
Popular rounds from the show that appear include ‘One Song to the Tune of Another’, ‘Sound Charades’, ‘Pick-up Song’, ‘Complete Quotes’ and the indecipherable ‘Mornington Crescent’. Every member of the audience is also supplied with a complimentary kazoo to participate in round of ‘Karaoke-Cokey’ and ‘Swanee Kazoo’.
The only thing to slightly mar this show is that it is all very clearly scripted and rehearsed. There are several instances of apparent improvisation but generally this ‘best of’ is exactly that, with the material recycled from forty years of radio shows. This does not make the jokes and puns any less funny but it does mean that the spontaneity of the programme is in short supply and the attempts by the panellists to guess the answers in rounds like ‘Sound Charades’ ring false.
However, with a relentless barrage of hilarity for over two hours, the Sunderland audience was left helpless with laughter and although the vast majority seemed to be fans of the radio show, this is an excellent introduction to people unfamiliar with the joys of Clue. And any show that ends with a 2000-strong kazoo rendition of ‘We’ll Meet Again’ is clearly a must-see!
I’m Sorry I Haven’t a Clue: Live on Stage is currently touring the UK.