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Cluedo

Sandy Rustin
Kilimanjaro Productions
Mayflower Theatre, Southampton

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Jean-Luke Worrell as Wadsworth Credit: Craig Sugden
The Cluedo Suspects Credit: Craig Sugden
The Cluedo Cast Credit: Craig Sugden

Those looking to escape the cost of living crisis and everything else that is wrong with the world would do well to spend an evening at the theatre enjoying Cluedo based on the famous Hasbro board game. A ‘whodunnit’ in the style of Mischief theatre’s The Play that goes Wrong, this a terrific ensemble performance that, despite not being perfect, is highly entertaining.

All the ingredients are here, from Colonel Mustard to Reverend Green, the drawing room, the library and the lead pipe. Sandy Rustin’s adaptation is a reminiscent trip around the game board and is cleverly structured to make the audience feel as though we are in control of rolling the dice.

I feel that the set-up for the story takes a while to get moving and certainly the second act picks up the pace and creates some truly wonderful moments of farce and wordplay. The direction from Mark Bell, who earned his stripes from directing Mischief’s The Play that Goes Wrong show, is excellent, particularly in conveying the same silliness, the repetition and physical comedy so typical of Mischief’s own style. There is no surprise that many of the cast members have worked with this company before, such was the slickness of each of the sequences.

The production is assisted by a wonderful set design from David Farley that cleverly offers opportunities for travelling from one room to the next in quick succession. What at first appears to be a rather mundane backdrop suddenly opens out to offer endless possibilities of moving from the library to the billiard room in a matter of seconds. The use of body doubles for Scarlett and Mustard allows a seemingly impossible journey to take place in real time. The French farce style is enhanced by the use of multiple doors, entrances and exits that are used with choreographic timing throughout.

Never one to draw attention to a stand-out performer and star-gaze at a single performance, I find it hard to write the next line. However, there is, in my opinion, one particular cast member who steals the show and leaves the audience hanging on his every word. Jean-Luke Worrell as the hapless butler, Wadsworth, is simply wonderful. He moves around the stage with poise and elegance, with a wide-eyed manic smile and superbly flexible physicality. His interplay with Mrs White in competition towards the start of the play is timed to perfection and the glove puppet moment is both silly and wonderful at the same time. To witness such a joyous performer really owning the space is worth the price of a ticket alone.

The marketing has led on the inclusion of TV actors Michelle Collins and Daniel Casey who take on the roles of Miss Scarlett and Professor Plum. Both Collins and Casey offer slightly one-dimensional characters, though this is a farce and not a Chekhov, so perhaps multi-layered interpretations wouldn’t necessarily be what the doctor ordered here. There were moments where cues seemed a little slow, though this was towards the start of the play rather than the fast-paced second act. Perhaps the performers warmed into the show—I know the audience did on this occasion.

As with the aforementioned Mischief shows, there are fabulous moments of tripping up on phrases, general confusion and doors slamming into faces. The breaking of the fourth wall is also utilised, particularly by the brilliant Worrell, who develops a relationship with the audience throughout. This is a fun show that should be not taken too seriously, rather one should revel in the joyful memory of long nights trying to figure out whether it really was the lead pipe after all.

Reviewer: John Johnson