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“Slapstick, crazy, better in act two” – Reviewing Cluedo 2 at Hull New Theatre

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Who has not played Cluedo over the years? That board game where you have to work out who the murderer is, has been part of many a joke about Miss Scarlett in the Library with a rope, or similar. Everyone knows to what you are referring.

This week, I had the pleasure of attending the opening night of Cluedo 2 at Hull New Theatre, an exciting new production touring the country. With BAFTA winners Laurence Marks and Maurice Gran, the well-known writing duo behind this rendition, my expectations were high.

Set in the 1960s, the game unfolds at the Manor House of Rick Black (Liam Horrigan), a fading and broke rock star, and his wife Mrs Peacock (Hannah Boyce). Black has been working on a new album and assembles his wife, his manager Colonel Mustard (Jason Durr of Heartbeat, Holby City, and Casualty fame), his roadie Professor Plum (Edward Howells), his housekeeper Mrs White (Dawn Buckland), and his interior designer Miss Scarlett (Ellie Leach, Coronation St and Strictly) to showcase his new tracks.

Unfortunately, Black is murdered, with a dagger, a spanner, and a rope, a bit of er… overkill, but someone wanted him well and truly dead! We then follow the cast attempting to flush out the killer and avoid being murdered themselves.

As the story progresses, more characters arrive at the mansion, PC Silver (Tiwai Muza) and his Detective, who completely miss the bodies in front of them, Reverend Hal Green (Gabriel Paul) regularly confused with the singer Al Green (if you’re old enough, you know). Then Wadsworth (Jack Bennett) who always plays a butler, and a film director arrive to shoot a Mother’s Ruin Gin commercial at the Manor.

Bodies pile up and so does the slapstick, crazy scene changes by all of the cast, and the play becomes a spoof of an amateur production, with dramatic poses by the cast, and fast lines and jokes. The comic timing is well-rehearsed and slick in both speech and actions on stage.

Being totally honest with you reader, I wanted to go home at the interval. The first part had dragged so much, every time there was a scene change there was a very loud piece of music which made not only myself but people around me jump with shock. I was having difficulty hearing some of the cast when they faced into the stage as they were not miked up, and the pace was slower than a bear coming out of hibernation. However, I stayed for the second act and luckily, very luckily the pace picked up, the jokes multiplied and Mrs White with her fast delivery and comic timing saved the production. There were of course lots more bodies, maybe that is the reason I preferred the second act?

The scene changes, although very loud, were slick as paintings dropped into sight, furniture was wheeled in and perfectly set the scene for each room on the game board. Once or twice the cast moved around the game board with Fosse-esque moves or chasing each other, which did seem over the top and pointless.

The final ten minutes of the production brought forward a great plot twist, a revelation about the murderer(s) and a satisfactory ending to the play.

Some of the characters are set as Americans, and there were plenty of skits around English idioms and the American characters being utterly confused which amused the audience.

The audience throughout the evening were chuckling and laughing at the jokes, and I have to conclude that they must have enjoyed the show. I hope that the production team mikes up the cast and at times slows down the pace of the jokes as when they came thick and fast, I had trouble keeping up.

If you like slapstick, crazy productions, then this one is for you, just remember it gets better in act two.

Cluedo 2 will be showing until this Saturday (13 April 2024) at Hull New Theatre.

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