Review: Cluedo (Theatre Royal Glasgow)
A Playful Adaptation of the Classic Board Game
If only more mysteries would colour-code their characters. Firstly, it would make it easier to keep track of them all. Secondly, it lets us know from the start that they aren’t complex, layered characters, but narrative tools in an interweaving plot of deception and murder. Playing pieces, almost. Cluedo, written by Sandy Rustin, is based on the film Clue, based on the board game Clue, based on the board game Cluedo. With all this transatlantic back-and-forth, the concept has largely stayed the same: six guests, each with a colourful name and something to hide, arrive at a mysterious mansion for a dinner party. When a mysterious murder spoils their evening, they are left to figure out amongst themselves which one is the killer.
Photo Credit: Craig Sugden
Director Mark Bell previously brought us the phenomenal The Play That Goes Wrong, and it’s clear that his comic timing and Rustin’s razor-sharp writing are a force to be reckoned with. Together they construct jokes which are simple in premise but stunning in execution. For example, when Wadsworth the Butler (Jean-Luke Worrell) commands the mansion’s baying dogs to “sit!”, the jumpy Reverend Green (Tom Babbage) drops cross-legged to the floor himself. It’s so quick it’s snort-inducing.
That tone, which balances silliness and slickness impeccably, is made possible by a cast who are in perfect harmony. They don’t have a bond, they are all murder suspects after all, but they volley, give each other the space to shine, and even improvise after a little mishap involving a stick-on moustache. The star of the show, without a shadow of a doubt, is Worrell as Wadsworth. He channels his big-screen counterpart Tim Curry but brings so much more than that to the performance. He has a kind of visible stage hunger; when he performs he fills every inch of the space with confidence and eccentricity, almost egotism. It fits the character so well that even when his bits have outstayed their welcome, he is entertaining all the same.
Photo Credit: Craig Sugden
With so much talent coming together on stage, it is a shame that the story and plot are so uneven. On the one hand, it’s clear that while some points in the plot are fixed (the arrival, the murders, the reveal etc), in between there is a great deal of inconsequential filler. For example a sequence during dinner in which each guest envisions themselves being attacked by the others at the table. It makes way for a few striking tableaus, but adds very little to the overall show. On the other hand, the politics and the post-war international tensions throughout the script are overthought and unwelcome. Terms like “renegade imperialist” crop up casually in the script, and they feel badly out of place next to slapstick crotch kicks and jokes such as "“it’s an acronym” “ah yes, my sister was a gymnast”". And with a run time of only an hour and forty minutes including interval, it is a shame to see even a minute of it go to waste.
Nevertheless, I doubt anyone could question the strength of the second half of the performance. It is packed with fun and scandal, and most importantly a thoroughly satisfying ending. Cluedo is a play that delivers exactly what it promises and then some; it is fun, creatively staged, and stays true to its influences, even if those influences are just a handful of multicoloured playing pieces and some tiny plastic weapons. Four stars.
Whispers from the Crowd: "It was really well done. I've seen the film lots of times and didn't know if it would be as good, but I really liked the staging." "I thought it was really funny"
Cluedo will run at Theatre Royal until July 9 and then Touring