Tag Archives: Jonathan Lynn



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.

☆ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆

Lady in red, Michelle Collins leads the way.

Satirically Correct


Grand Theatre, Wolverhampton, Tuesday 7th May, 2013

Writers Antony Jay and Jonathan Lynn have updated their fondly remembered TV sitcom for this new stage version – the familiar characters are there but the piece feels wholly up-to-the-minute.

The scene is Chequers, the Prime Minister’s country residence. Over the course of a weekend, the fate of the government, Europe and the civil service is decided when an international crisis is provoked and just about averted.   Simon Higlett’s set, all wooden panels and leather-bound books, suggests strength and permanence – two qualities rarely present in government!

It begins like a drawing-room comedy, with cabinet secretary Sir Humphrey Appleby popping out epigrams like champagne corks  His view of what makes a PM is “No previous experience, no qualifications, and limited intelligence.”  Seems about right.  As Sir Humphrey, Crispin Redman expunges the brilliant ghost of Nigel Hawthorne and makes the character his own, in a masterly portrayal of snobbishness, privilege and devious manipulations.

The PM, by contrast, is less erudite and slower on the uptake.  Michael Fenton Stevens rants about our fellow Europeans in a litany of politically incorrect and derogatory names – and you can’t help wondering what our current PM blurts out behind closed doors.  Fenton Stevens’s Jim Hacker is a tightly wound spring, kept that way by Sir Humphrey’s evasions.  The play says what the TV series said: it’s really the civil service that has the power, the appointed officials rather than the elected representatives.

There are topical jokes aplenty and many examples of impenetrable verbiage and double-talk for the actors to get their teeth into.  There’s a very amusing sequence when principal private secretary Bernard (Michael Matus) takes a phone call from the BBC and reels off stock answers from a pre-prepared folder, exactly the kind of fobbing-off MPs give us every time they speak to the media.

Matus is excellent as bungling Bernard – the playing is broader than you get on television and this version needs it to be.   There is a danger the whole thing could become rather static and overly wordy, but the energised performances keep the pace fast and the characters engaging.

In the second act, Fenton Stevens dominates as Jim Hacker falls apart, becoming more manic and desperate by the second.  It’s a hilarious display of fury and sarcasm that ends up with him cowering under his own desk.

The plot is farcical but not Whitehall farcical, so to speak.  It’s like a chess game played by committee as Hacker and his advisors try to think their way in and out of trouble.  Their quick fire discussions cover a lot of ground: oil deals, the environment, curbing the civil service, religion’s place in government, morality… Hacker makes a salient point when he advocates experts within departments, such as actual teachers in the Department of Education, clinicians in the Health Service… It’s a lovely idea and preferable to those Hacker calls ‘amateurs’ that we have today.

You really have to pay attention to catch all the barbs but your concentration is rewarded with some sharp satire and deftly played comedy.  This, being a sitcom-based piece, has the status quo restored by the end.  Like the sturdy set, the established order remains; only those rushing about and making fools of themselves within it come and go.

Michael Fenton Stevens keeps calm and carries on

Michael Fenton Stevens keeps calm and carries on