Colonel Mustard, with the dagger…in the theatre? Out of the box and on to the stage, family favourite boardgame Cluedo rolls up for an evening so fun it’s lethal.
The plot is based on that of the 1985 film Clue: the 6 familiar suspects show up at Boddy Manor having all been mysteriously invited there, where a revelation from their host sets in motion a sequence of surprising events.
Direction from Mark Bell, of The Play That Goes Wrong fame, gives cause for excitement for all the farcical comedy fans this show is designed to attract. However, Sandy Rustin’s vanilla script limits this adaptation to the appeal of a second-hand game with the instructions missing.
There is chucklesome physical humour, most regularly delivered by the floundering Reverend Green (Tom Babbage): his being forced to manoeuvre the dead achieves some of the biggest laughs. There are also satirical quips about trusting the government among other contemporary themes that play on the story’s 1940s setting. But when these gags are repeated so soon after their initial delivery, they do not achieve the layered hilarity Mischief Theatre’s comedy so aptly masters. The word play isn’t nearly as smart, either.
Jean-Luke Worrell establishes himself as the evening’s guest of honour with a compelling, scene-stealing performance as the Boddy butler, Wadsworth. Meanwhile, Judith Amsenga amuses as the flappable, alcoholic socialite Mrs Peacock, and soap fans may also appreciate the presence of Michelle Collins (Miss Scarlett) and Daniel Casey (Professor Plum).
The cast is too large for the length of this relatively short play, which reduces each character to no more than one or two traits. Though this can work in a frivolous black comedy, it is noticeable that some roles are limited to a handful of noteworthy lines.
Cluedo fans will rejoice as there are more nods to the classic boardgame than you could shake a double-six at. The infamous weapons appear in all their glory- though Mrs White (Etisyai Philip) hysterically mistakes the rope for a snake on first sight. Designer David Farley’s colour-coded outfits capture both the personality of the characters and era. The set itself, though, is restrained; we spend most of the show in the hall, offered only the smallest of peeps into the iconic rooms that double up as potential murder sites.
While staying true to the game’s 20th century setting, the backdrop of the Lynskey Tribunal goes unnoticed and does not contribute to the story, one that is intentioned to be light-hearted, anyway. Perhaps, then, a modernised version would have provided opportunities for more relatable humour.
This new stage version of Cluedo draws to a predictable close, but audiences young and old will enjoy this barmy brush with death.
Cluedo continues at The Lowry, Salford until 2nd July with tickets available from https://thelowry.com/whats-on/cluedo/
Reviewer: Scot Cunningham
Reviewed: 27th June 2022
North West End UK Rating: ★★★★