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  • Flora Gosling

Review: Cluedo 2 The Next Chapter (Theatre Royal Glasgow)

Updated: Jun 21

Murder mystery sequel is dead on arrival

Sequels are a rare thing in theatre, particularly outside of a bubble like London or the Fringe, and it’s not hard to see why. Your target audience are people who have seen the first one and liked it enough to see the sequel. But if there was one touring production from last year I would want to see a sequel of, it would probably be Cluedo. Based on the 1985 film starring Tim Curry, the stage adaptation was creative, colourful, and quick as a whippet. This sequel takes place in a manor house a decade later, when we meet a new generation of colour-coordinated suspects.

First, we have the owner of the house, past-his-prime rock star Mr Black played by Liam Horrigan. He is brilliantly cocky with mannerisms that remind one of Russell Brand without the problematic character attached. So it is a shame he dies first, particularly when the rest of the male cast members make so little impression. Jason Durr plays Black’s Tom Parker-like manager Colonel Mustard, with an accent as bad as Tom Hanks to match. Jack Bennett plays wannabe actor Wadsworth, a role previously played with much more charisma and energy by Jean-Luke Worrell. This Wadsworth is preparing for the role of a butler but is commanded around like a real one, which would be funny if either the script or Bennett made any effort to evolve the bit.

Photo Credit: Alastair Muir

On the other hand, there are the women, who each give strong performances. Uptight widow Mrs Peacock is fabulously brisk, wannabe other woman Miss Scarlet always has a glint of mischief in her eye, and dutiful maid Mrs White is quiet and observing…until she isn’t. With these three, at least, one is happy to sit back and be in their company, which is lucky because the plot doesn’t offer much more momentum than that. Once the first murder is out of the way the plot goes to war with itself to figure out what to do with the rest of them. There are suspicions, ulterior motives, and hijinx including a Weekend-at-Bernie’s-style conspiracy with the barely dead body of the first victim, but they all seem like random diversions to fill time. The characters frequently stop to play pool, which is staged well but does nothing to make us believe in the constant presence of a murderer.

Not that I always want this genre to be heavy. At first, I found the colourful design and self-knowing writing to be a delightful contrast to the limp and overly serious mysteries like the recent And Then There Were None and, I fear, the upcoming Murder on the Orient Express. But as it drags on it becomes clear that even being silly is too challenging for these big-stage mystery adaptations. For example, when Wadsworth is caught in an awkward exchange and doesn’t know what to do, he shouts “Sausage!”, and runs off stage, to an audible “What?” in a Glaswegian accent from the audience. Another old favourite of a struggling script is dead-end references, usually targeted at older audiences. Last week it was Hitchcock in The 39 Steps, this week it's Al Green because a character has a similar name. There is nothing clever or revealing about them, they are just there.

When the performance finally comes to a drawn-out, albeit surprisingly bloody end, the real crime wasn’t the multiple murders but the complete absence of tension. Director Mark Bell and writers Laurence Marks and Maurice Gran must answer to that, but without wanting to be cynical it is hard not to look at Cludeo 2: The Next Chapter as a shameless cash grab from producers. The first was surprisingly strong but was riding on the coattails of the film, where it was guaranteed to please familiar audiences and impress unfamiliar audiences. This is a shadow of that former success, where there is no incentive to make something good and worthy because the audience have already paid before they have even stepped through the door. Two stars.

Whispers from the Crowd: "I liked it! I had zero expectations but yeah I enjoyed it, there were a couple of laughs."

Cluedo 2: The Next Chapter has completed its run at the Theatre Royal Glasgow but will play at The Alexandra in Birmingham from the 23rd to the 27th of July and at the Waterside Theatre in Aylesbury from the 22nd to the 26 of October.


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