Theatre Royal Brighton – until 18th June 2022
Reviewed by Sue Bradley
This play was inspired by the film Clue which itself took its inspiration from the famous board-game known in the UK as Cluedo. The game was based on a real house in Rottingdean and was invented during the second World War, then subsequently sold to Waddingtons, who launched it in 1949.
Six strangers, with apparently nothing in common, arrive at a country house for a mysterious party. Their anticipated good time quickly unravels into something more sinister. But this is a comedy – not even a dark comedy – and from the off it is clear that this will be a light-hearted spoof of the murder-mystery genre and it is played for laughs throughout.
Michelle Collins is suitably vampish as Miss Scarlett and Daniel Casey shakes off his Midsomer Murders’ ‘Detective Troy’ role to become an amusing Professor Plum. However the comically sinister butler, played by Jean-Luke Worrell, is the lynchpin to the show. In a wonderful scene in the second half he treats us to a breakneck Agatha Christie – style recap of the plot, which got a much-deserved round of applause. A mention too for Tom Babbage as Reverend Green, whose physical clowning in the second half got one of the biggest laughs of the night.
The ensemble playing from the cast is extremely strong – there are many set pieces which involve the entire cast in complicated tableaux and there is much running around in Keystone Cops style, where comic timing is everything, and the cast never let us down. It was clearly very well-rehearsed, so that when there was a happy accident with a make-up mishap, the actors involved allowed us to see that it had happened and then ad-libbed their way out of it to great comic effect. This momentary breaking of the fourth wall gave the audience another of the many well-deserved belly-laughs.
The set is also worthy of special mention; at first glance it is simply a nicely designed hallway with several doors leading off it, then through clever designs of pull-out sections, more and more ‘rooms’ (old favourites like The Study, The Kitchen, The Conservatory etc.) are revealed – and we even get a secret passage at one point which allows for a simple but funny sight gag. Lighting and sound design was also entertaining; never intrusive but with cues coming bang-on time, every time. Very impressive.
In the best tradition of murder-mysteries it is difficult to know who the murderer is until the last few scenes and even the denouement keeps us guessing to the end.
If you are looking for something of deep intellectual substance this show will not be for you, but if you want to be entertained with skill, pace and glorious silliness, you will not be disappointed.
In the end, you will be pleased with yourself if you work it out in advance or equally pleased to let the show give you the answer to the perennial question in a murder-mystery: ‘Whodunnit?’