Cluedo 2

Cluedo is the family staple murder mystery board game that has spanned generations, now adapted for the second theatrical take on the classic household game. Having not seen the first play, Cluedo 2 (written by Laurence Marks and Maurice Gran) stands as its own entity and has recently announced a further extension to the fast-selling tour.

We begin our game in the swinging 60’s with rock and roll legend Rick Black (Liam Horrigan) who has requested the presence of the other players at his new stately manor. Having not had much luck in the music industry as of late the plot centres around the ensemble cast listening to his latest tapes in order to revive his diminished career. As you would expect if familiar with the game, there is a murder and the cast are left questioning whodunnit?

We are introduced to our cast thick and fast all with their own backstories telling us why they are at the manor which felt rushed and difficult to keep up with at times. With how fast the backstory’s are forced upon us we as an audience form no emotional attachment to any of the characters or particularly care about their outcome. Given the prominence of colour in the game and how they relate to each character it was disappointing to see some characters lacking a distinct visually identity. Bold, vibrant, psychedelic colours that were so unmistakable in the 1960’s were swapped for unappealing dull costuming. In an unoriginal effort our ‘killer’ is seen on stage in the ‘traditional’ hooded cloak in another uninspired directional choice.

As the play progressed and a murder eventually happens scenes felt too long and drawn out. The characters were not overly concerned that someone they knew and held in high regard had been murdered. Understandably, this isn’t a serious drama play and is meant to be slightly tongue in cheek, however if they did this with more committal the production would have benefited greatly. The production almost feels conflicted about whether to commit to slap stick over the top comedy, moving away from the board game entirely or wanting to be taken seriously as a game working out who carried out the murder.

Staging (David Farley) is vastly different from the first production. Intentionally leaving vast amounts of empty space to allow the characters to travel from room to room just like the board game. With a giant version of the game at the back of the stage, this lit up to demonstrate what room the action was taking place in, which was welcomed as it wasn’t always clear with just a chair being dragged on the cast. The illusion of a grand seventeen bedroom estate was none existent as the stage felt empty when at its fullest.

Scene changes felt clumsy as several characters would be dragging props across the stage or stagehands could be seen side of stage pulling items across by rope. A positive aspect of the staging, as in the board game, one character would leave stage right only to immediately appear stage left, cleverly mirroring the secret passages present in Cluedo.

Lighting (Jason Taylor) also plunged several cast members into the shadows when delivering their lines making the stage appear darker than it needed to be throughout. Whilst acknowledging the play is set on a dark and stormy evening there was very little contrast to the lighting throughout.

Whilst Cluedo 2 is essentially an ensemble piece, Jack Bennett was the standout performer as Wadsworth, an actor playing a butler (he is definitely not a butler) who committed to the repetitive joke throughout. The running gag which we were reminded of constantly was soon jarring and tedious eliciting less laughter as it went on. Dawn Buckland as the house cook, Mrs White, gave a nuanced performance that drew the majority of laughter from the audience with her inquisitive accusations and innuendo routines.

Edward Howells as Professor Plum is probably dealt the worst hand as the character is non substantial with very little content or context in him being at the manor. Ellie Leach (in her stage debut) playing Miss Scarlett played the part with very little depth appearing one note throughout. As the latest winner of Strictly Come Dancing it also seemed a missed opportunity not to incorporate some of the dancing elements that were teased in the production into a bigger number.

As Cluedo 2 reaches its conclusion it lacks the needed tension and suspense that would have kept audience members guessing right until the end. The final scenes of the piece are unexpected and seem to come from nowhere, if the production had ended a scene or two earlier audiences would have felt more satisfied with the outcome of the plot. After the success of similar murder mystery productions (think Agatha Christie’s The Mousetrap) the piece didn’t capture the imagination of what could have been done adapting this classic board game. Having spent numerous hours playing the game with family and friends growing up it’s disappointing that the classic characters, rooms and weapons have been underutilised and not appearing fully developed.

It’s back to the playing board and another roll of the dice is needed for Cluedo 2.

This show was reviewed on the 2nd April at The Lowry, Salford where it runs until the 6th April 2024.  Tickets available here: Cluedo 2 | The Lowry

Review written by Jordan Potts

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Photo credit: Alastair Muir

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