The maid, in the hall, with the champagne!
That is how Wadsworth the butler greets us, and the six guests who each received a mysterious invitation, as we enter Boddy Manor. Most, if not all of us, will be familiar with Miss Scarlett, Professor Plum, Mrs Peacock, Reverend Green, Mrs. White and Colonel Mustard, the protagonists of the now 70-year-old board game, Cluedo, on which this play is based; and now we get to meet them in the flesh.
They arrive in time for dinner, but the staff are acting strangely, and the evening soon comes to an unforeseen halt, as a body is discovered in the study. But… who was it that brought the evening to its arresting conclusion?
The script by Sandy Rustin, based on Jonathan Lynn’s original screenplay, is full of clever nods to the board game, snappy one liners, amusing pop culture references and expertly timed pauses. Director Mark Bell manages this fast-paced script and energetic company well, and his experience with The Play That Goes Wrong shines through as he brings just enough order to this chaotic dinner party.
I had wondered how the designer, David Farley, would incorporate the idea of the different rooms into the set without making it feel clunky or forced, but the folding walls and passageways built into the set were really well thought out. More than that though, he has truly managed to evoke that excitement you get when you unfold the Cluedo board and get ready to play the game. I loved the whole look! Together with Warren Letton’s lighting design, this makes Boddy Manor an inviting place to visit.
Anna Healey, the movement director, has also created her fair share of magic, helping the actors to build their characters and also ensuring their safe… and hilarious… movement around the stage. Simply brilliant! And while it looks effortless, I can only image the work that went into this.
The cast have tackled this play with joy and have fully leaned into the spoof-whodunnit feeling with enthusiasm, not taking themselves too seriously, and cheekily engaging with the audience whenever appropriate. The eight key players and two busy ensemble members constantly feed off one another’s energy. You could argue that it gets a little over the top and a bit shouty in places, but ultimately, that seems to echo the spirit of the play.
This is a true ensemble piece: every role weaves seamlessly with the others and everyone played their part in making this show a success. Having said that, special mention must go to Jean-Luke Worrell who stole nearly all of his scenes with his wit and timing, and who deservedly received the only mid-show applause of the night.
So, was it Miss Scarlett with the revolver in the dining room, or Professor Plum with the lead pipe in the library…? Well, you’ll have to book your tickets to find out!
Cluedo continues at the Lyceum Theatre in Sheffield until Saturday 28th May 2022. Information and tickets can be found here: https://www.sheffieldtheatres.co.uk/events/cluedo Accessible performances are available. Following this production, Cluedo continues to tour the UK until the end of July. Information about the tour can be found here: https://www.cluedostageplay.com/
Reviewer: Jo Tillotson
Reviewed: 23rd May 2022
North West End UK Rating: ★★★★