Festival Theatre, Malvern – until 25th June 2022
Reviewed by Courie Amado Juneau
Ah, those warm fuzzy childhood memories playing Cluedo – we all have them! Not everyone will have seen the 1985 film, Clue, that was based on the board game but one thing’s for sure – everyone can and will enjoy this farcical romp adapted for the stage.
The play opens with the servants of Boddy Manor preparing to welcome six guests who have all received invitations to attend on this dark and (naturally) stormy night. All have been assigned pseudonyms – Miss Scarlett etc. Each is being blackmailed by Mr Boddy (owner of the house) and none of them know why they have been summoned… All the components of the original game are present – the rooms; cunningly brought to life with panels that pull out to reveal the room in question. The Murder weapons also play a key role in the action – yes, there are indeed murders. The only thing missing is a set of dice – perhaps a wet fluffy pair brought in by the character whose car has broken down in future productions… Just a thought.
The entire ensemble are perfectly cast, each bringing their character to life in glorious technicolour, just like their names demand. The actors deserve great credit for their creations, as does Director Mark Bell – in fact he should get an award for the hilarious chandelier moment alone which is outrageously mirthful and far more memorable than Phantom’s famous chandelier scene. I adored the Scooby Doo like sections where everyone is going in and out of the various rooms, mining a very rich seam of our collective childhood. The show’s original music, by Michael Holland, was particularly effective here, bringing to mind Mozart’s great comic operas. A real treat for the ears which helped propel the action along in suitably jocular fashion.
I’ll briefly single out Tom Babbage (Reverend Green) whose command of slapstick was approaching genius level and Harry Bradley (playing multiple characters) for his lightning quick ad-libbing, especially during a facial furniture malfunction. An unintended highlight of a show with many, many highlights.
It would be remiss not to also mention Wadsworth (the butler) very much overplayed to hilarious effect by Jean-Luke Worrell, stealing every scene he is in (or exiting from). He reminded me of Riff-Raff (Rocky Horror’s majordomo) with a sinister Joker edge. Tantalizingly overdone to perfection!
It was lovely to see an extended series of “it was…” predictions as to who killed who, with what and in which room. Priceless, taking us right back to the culmination of the game we remember so fondly.
This wonderful show works on so many levels – those who love all styles of comedy are well served as are those who enjoy a good whodunnit. The guffaws rang out loudly from the stalls and stage alike – indeed, it can be justifiably noted that all involved were having a scream getting away with murder. Whodunnit? Well, they all dunnit and they dunnit so well. An absolute smash. I predict the cast with an Olivier in the bag.