Belgrade Theatre, Coventry, Monday 14th March 2022
Based on the film Clue, which of course was based on the board game of the same name, this hilarious adaptation reworks Jonathan Lynn’s screenplay for the stage. Sandy Rustin’s script anglicises the screenplay, retaining Lynn’s wit, wordplay, and snappy dialogue, adhering to the ludicrous plot and adding inventive theatricality to suit the new medium. Director Mark Bell ensures the cast is kept busy with comic business and general running around – the grotesque tableaux around the dining table, for example, or the slow-motion when a chandelier comes down…
A disparate bunch of strangers assembles at a country house on a stormy night. Events are orchestrated by Wadsworth, the butler, in a gem of a performance by Jean-Luc Worrel, who is cheerfully ominous, moving in measured strides. Never mind murder, he steals the show.
At this performance, the role of the maid Yvette, who keeps forgetting she’s supposed to be French, is played by Georgia Bradley, who is also consistently funny.
Leading the company is Michelle Collins in a drop-dead red dress as Miss Scarlet, but truly this is an ensemble piece, with everyone given the chance to shine. Wesley Griffith is a hoot as the nice-but-dim Colonel Mustard; Etisyai Phillips is great value as a strident Mrs White; Judith Amsenga is hugely enjoyable as the haughty but hypocritical Mrs Peacock; Daniel Casey makes a strong impression as the posturing Professor Plum; and I must make special mention of Tom Babbage in the role of Reverend Green for his physical comedy and general falling over.
David Farley’s ingenious set opens up to reveal the various rooms we expect to see from the board game. As the guests tear from room to room, they have to take the furniture with them, adding to the frenzy of activity. Thunder, lightning and musical stings punctuate the action, adding to the silliness.
It’s all completely daft and very, very funny, and it’s a joy to watch broad comedy so well performed, with exquisite timing from all and sundry. Not so much a murder-mystery as a well-oiled farce, Cluedo is a real scream.
The Alexandra Theatre, Birmingham, Monday 21st January, 2019
Mike Leigh’s classic TV play gets a new lease of life in this new touring production directed by Sarah Esdaile. The first thing that strikes you is Janet Bird’s impressive set, all suburban 1970s with the perspective raked just enough to engender a slight sense of claustrophobia. The action takes place solely in the living room of Beverly and Laurence, and like the neighbours who gather there for a spot of social drinking, we can be forgiven if we feel like we’re caged in with wild animals.
Jodie Prenger absolutely rules the roost as the monstrous bully Beverly, in a splendidly performed characterisation of bad behaviour dressed up as good manners. That’s what this piece is, a comedy of manners with some very black humour indeed. Prenger is magnificent, eyes shooting daggers – mainly at her tightly wound, hard-working husband Laurence (Daniel Casey) – and she very much makes the part her own rather than trying to recreate Alison Steadman’s original incarnation.
Vicky Binns is great value as the tactless Angela, a kind of acolyte for Beverly, while Calum Callaghan’s monosyllabic Tony is brimming with pent-up aggression. Completing the quintet is Rose Keegan as the meek and uncomfortable Sue, almost stealing the show, in my view. By the way, the titular party and the eponymous Abigail are both off-stage in Sue’s house. Sarah Esdaile gets the most out of this skilful ensemble and paces the exchanges to perfection while maintaining a kind of heightened naturalism.
It’s a very funny piece. Originally, it was a comment on contemporary society; nowadays, it’s a period piece and there is the laughter of nostalgia as certain brand names crop up. The attitudes, of course, are still very much with us. What’s the betting Laurence and Beverly would vote Leave? This is very much a character-driven piece, dealing with the dynamics and inherent tensions of relationships as well as the sheer awfulness of social niceties.
A high-quality production, where everything from performances to costumes to soundtrack is all spot on. A real treat to see a classic presented so excellently, so hilariously. It’s great fun to witness such carryings-on, but Leigh is also holding up a mirror: there is plenty for each of us to recognise in ourselves here, if we’d dare to admit it.