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by on 9 March 2022

Beautifully Choreographed Chaos


by Sandy Rustin

Kilimanjaro Theatricals at Richmond Theatre until 12th March, then tour continues until 15th July

Review by Eleanor Lewis

An apt response while applauding the bows at the conclusion of Cluedo would probably be, “What just happened?” A reasonable answer would be “I don’t care, whatever it was it was thoroughly entertaining!”

That said, the stage play Cluedo is cleverer and funnier than you might expect. Set unsurprisingly in an English country house on a stormy night in 1949, several strangers have been invited for dinner and told to assume the character names from the board game and not reveal their true identities. Their task is to find out who is blackmailing all of them. Also in the house is a French maid who is not French, a cook and a butler, Wadsworth. What follows is beautifully choreographed chaos – literally beautifully choreographed as Movement Director Anna Healey has the cast making graceful, balletic arcs with chairs in their arms as they swirl about the stage from scene to scene to the accompaniment of eccentric scraps of music. It’s a neat contrast to the frenzied plot and its movement that perfectly fits David Farley’s design, which leaves the entrance hall of the house largely empty, with many rooms to be opened by the characters and glimpsed in small sections from the sides.

An ensemble piece, including Michelle Collins and Daniel Casey (Eastenders and Midsomer Murders respectively), Cluedo is a testament to the collective comedic skill of the cast, all of whom have their moment, but Jean-Luke Worrell as Wadsworth the butler, with the job of marshalling the cast and moving events along, is outstanding. He’s a pleasure to watch and amongst his many other skills he’s very witty with his white-gloved Marcel Marceau-type hands. There is no weak link in this cast though, everyone plays their part with integrity, deadpan delivery and perfect timing.

Cluedo represents the work of many people: written by Sandy Rustin it is based on Jonathan Lynn’s screenplay for the film Clue, which was inspired by the original Cluedo game. The resulting stage play is directed by Mark Bell, so anyone familiar with Mischief Theatre’s The Play That Goes Wrong, or Richard Bean’s Commedia dell’arte-style One Man Two Guv’nors will happily recognise features of the anarchic comedy of those two hugely successful productions, where you’re safe to accept the often risky statement “guaranteed entertainment”.

This is an incarnation of physical theatre that will always attract an audience. There is an elegance that enhances the whole thing: the white gloves, the mime, the slo-mo and the occasional striking of tableaux. There is ridiculousness delivered with a dead straight face, and tiny details to love (the Mrs Peacock moment and the singing telegram being my personal favourites – there are many others). It’s artful and silly without ever being cynical and it takes a lot of talent to do it so well. Mark Bell’s direction is flawless.

Laugh out loud funny and highly recommended.

Eleanor Lewis, March 2022

Photography by Craig Sugden

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