Saturday, April 13

Cluedo 2 – The Lowry

Cluedo, the family favourite board game, celebrates 75years since it was first produced in the UK and America. This enduring game is filled with intrigue, mystery and fun. Did this show live up to the appeal of this classic game?

Cluedo 2, a sequel to the hugely popular first play, which toured the UK in 2022, has a host of re-invented characters, a different, intriguing storyline and is set in a whole new mansion. Cluedo 2 has all the potential to be a sure fire hit, with the hugely talented director, Mark Bell (best known for directing The Play That Goes Wrong) and successful stage and screen comedy writers Laurence Marks and Maurice Gran. I was hoping for a night filled with laughter whilst acting the sleuth, however, I only chuckled a few times throughout the evening.

Set in the 1960’s, Rick Black, the fading rock ‘n’ roll star, is about to release his new album, aptly titled ‘No One Gets Out of Here Alive’. Early in Act One, Black is murdered surrounded by multiple weapons and a collection of the usual colour-coded suspects as well as Wadsworth (the butler – or is he!?!) ably played by Jack Bennett. Again, this impressive cast including Jason Durr (star of Heartbeat and Casualty) and Ellie Leach (reigning Strictly Come Dancing champion and of Coronation Street fame) gives Cluedo 2 all the credentials to be a winner, which made me wonder why this show, at times, felt somewhat understated.

Photo: Alastair Muir

In keeping with the origins of the board game Cluedo, (originally entitled Murder at Tudor Close) conceived by Anthony Pratt, (a pianist at hotels where affluent guests enjoyed murder mysteries), the acting in Cluedo 2 was suitably melodramatic. Perhaps too reminiscent of a parlour game, the action at times seemed too static, ironically, the characters only seemed to come to life in the second act as the bodies piled up! All-knowing Mrs White (the housekeeper and cook), played by Dawn Buckland, brought much of the fun with witty one liners and a natural stage presence. Hannah Boyce as Mrs Peacock was suitably melodramatic in both movement and projection, including a fabulous switch in accents.

Ellie Leach as Miss Scarlett (the interior designer), came into her own towards the end of the show engaging the audience as motives and alibis were explained. The audience at the opening night at The Lowry, (a stone’s throw from the Weatherfield cobbles), particularly enjoyed the nod towards Leach’s success as the Strictly winner.

David Farley’s set was certainly impressive, the outer edges of the board game framed the stage, whilst the backdrop featured the exterior of Graveny Manor mounted on to the floor plan of the mansion. This remained present at the back of the set throughout, the windows cleverly illuminated to highlight the suspects increasingly frantic movements dashing from room to room as they searched, or tried to evade, the killer. The set gave an impression of simultaneously, looking in from the outside, whilst having a clear view of the dark and mysterious happenings within. Rapid scene changes by the cast wheeling in doors, desks, chairs and suitable additions to convey the different rooms, added to by the floating in of windows and pictures, again gave this show huge potential for swift comic and dramatic delivery, however, for me, it did not deliver the laughs I expected. Cluedo 2 certainly had plenty of moments of silliness, but I felt it needed to go several notches higher, both in the use of comic timing and physicality. Some of the slapstick was lost to caution.

Despite some good individual performances, making it enjoyable entertainment, overall, I expected a bit more pizzazz and panache from a professional show with this calibre of talent.

Playing until the 6th April,

Reviewer: Emma Wild

Reviewed: 2nd April 2024

North West End UK Rating:

Rating: 3 out of 5.