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Cluedo at Richmond Theatre | Review

Perhaps there has been another board game that has enjoyed fresh life as a stage play, but off the top of my head, I can’t think of one. All right, Chess, but that was a musical.

Michelle Collins
Michelle Collins

Cluedo, you may or may not remember, was a postwar sensation, a family-friendly whodunit centred on finding the identity of the murderer in a group of weekend revellers at a country house.

It was the inspired invention of a musician called David Pratt who, according to his daughter, would spice family jaunts with visits to the locations of famous bumping-off points. He got the idea for Cluedo from the already popular pursuit of Murder, in which guests would disperse into the furthest reaches of such piles and then try and work out the identity of the killer in their midst when one of their number expired with a scream.

Here then is a clear case of a board game reconfigured for treading the boards. Written by Andy Rustin, with additional material from various accomplices, it brings to life – indeed, to death – the imperishable stereotypes of the game’s characters. Here is Professor Plum, Colonel Mustard, Reverend Green, Mrs. White, Mrs. Peacock and the rest, not forgetting the indispensable and all-seeing butler Wadsworth. Usual suspects all.

The show does just what it says on the game-box, presenting us with a range of souls who must be considered guilty until proved innocent. The audience’s lust for suspicion is ramped up still further by the guests’ receipt, on arrival, of items which you could hardly view as anything other than tools of murder: a lead pipe, a spanner, a weighty candlestick, a dagger, a revolver. Each of the guests is as much sleuth as suspect.

The result is an eccentric cartoon of an England often labelled innocent by later nostalgists. Here, however, guilt and suspicion haunt the passages and burst through secret doors like the commonest of chancers.

There’s a particular slickness in play, and if it feels at times that it is under the influence of transatlantic cousins, that is because it is. Yes, Cluedo the game was/is as English as stage butlers, but we also need to consider the evidence of a very American 1985 film, or rather movie version. Its title was simply Clue, the second syllable having been removed as the game of Ludo was hardly known in the US.

Lest we forget, the homely pastime invented by Pratt became a mighty global presence, with numerous special editions such as Star Wars, Harry Potter, Game of Thrones, and worldwide sales of some one hundred and fifty million.

This stage version is nothing if not a house of cards, directed, or rather choreographed, with sometimes breathtaking precision by Mark Bell. Michelle Collins shimmers hilariously as Miss Scarlett, with Daniel Casey compelling as Professor Plum. Then there’s Jean-Luke Worrell as Wadsworth. Him you really have to watch or else he’d steal the whole show from under your nose. That’s butlers for you.

4 stars

Review by Alan Franks

When Miss Scarlett, Professor Plum, Mrs Peacock, Reverend Green, Mrs. White and Colonel Mustard arrive at a country house one dark and stormy evening, they are surprised to find they have all received the same intriguing invitation from Lord Boddy. It soon becomes clear that they all have something to hide as the mystery and hysteria grows and the inhabitants and guests of Boddy Manor are killed off one by one, with a variety of familiar weapons, leaving everyone to wonder, who will be next!

Cluedo is at Richmond Theatre from Monday 7th March, 2022 to Saturday 12th March, 2022.

W/C 14 March 2022 Coventry: Belgrade Theatre
W/C 21 March 2022 Leeds: Grand Theatre
W/C 04 April 2022 Cardiff: New Theatre
W/C 11 April 2022 Shrewsbury: Severn Theatre
W/C 25 April 2022 Bath: Theatre Royal

The Alexandra, Birmingham
Mon 2 May – Sat 7 May 2022

W/C 09 May 2022 Edinburgh: Kings Theatre
W/C 16 May 2022 Southampton: Mayflower

Milton Keynes Theatre
Mon 30 May – Sat 4 Jun 2022

W/C 06 June 2022 Leicester: Curve Theatre

Theatre Royal Brighton
Mon 13 Jun – Sat 18 Jun 2022

W/C 20 June 2022 Malvern: Festival Theatre
W/C 26 June 2022 Salford: Lowry Theatre

Theatre Royal Glasgow
Mon 4 Jul – Sat 9 Jul 2022

W/C 11 July 2022 Wolverhampton: Grand Theatre
W/C 25 July 2022 Belfast: Grand Opera House

Author

  • Alan Franks

    Alan Franks is one of the senior reviewers for LondonTheatre1.com, contributing regularly with reviews for London and regional shows, as well as reporting on press launches. Alan Franks was a Times feature writer for more than thirty years, specialising in the arts and interviewing many leading actors, writers and directors, including Arthur Miller, Peter Hall, Woody Allen, Judi Dench and Stephen Sondheim. He is the author of several plays, including The Mother Tongue starring Prunella Scales, and his latest novel, The Notes of Dr. Newgate, is published by Muswell Press. http://www.alanfranks.com

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