I had reason to venture into town this morning before writing my review and took the opportunity to have a look at a Cluedo box in WH Smiths. What I was looking for was the recommended age for players which turns out to be 8+. For anyone over that age then I am sure that they will enjoy a few games with their friends and family, for anyone under 8 it might be worth giving the play a try.
As an aside, Cluedo was invented by a Brummie called Anthony Pratt (no A Pratt jokes are coming) during the Second World War. It was bought by John Waddington who manufactured the game at its factory in Stourton, Leeds along with their other blockbuster, Monopoly. Waddington’s was bought by the US firm Hasbro in 1994 and the Leeds factory was closed down and demolished. For the benefit of my American friends who read my reviews, your version of the game is called Clue. The original name was a pun on another board game popular in this country called Ludo, hence the switch.
In the programme the Director, Mark Bell, says that this work is ‘A new British play, based on an American play, based on an American film, based on a British board game.’ He goes on to say that, because the base play is American, he had to ‘Britishise’ the script. I think that he would have done better leaving it as it was and let the Yanks take the blame for it. The last sentence in his piece reads ‘But one question remains……Whodunnit?’ I think that another pertinent question would be Whydunnit?
The ‘Britishised’ action takes place in a country house near London on a stormy night in 1949, so how a singing telegram got in there is baffling to me as the first UK singing telegram was performed by Mike Collins in 1982. If I can find out stuff like this in two minutes why can’t the Director?
There is the obligatory list of characters; Miss Scarlett, Professor Plum, Colonel Mustard, Mrs White, Mrs Peacock and Reverend Green, who are summoned to the house at the behest of Lord Body. They are greeted by the butler, Wadsworth and the maid Yvette who is supposed to be French but her English accent (intentionally) keeps intruding.
There ensues not one murder, but a series of them in various rooms of the house and by an assortment of weapons – you guessed it – lead pipe, gun, rope, spanner, dagger and candlestick. Lord Body was the first to be killed, see what they did there, and the rest happened in quick succession utilising the Farce for Dummies handbook. There were people falling over, running in and out of doors, getting hit in the face by said doors, fainting, trying to hide bodies or make them look as though they were still alive, in fact the only entry not covered was the trousers round the ankles chapter.
A lot of the ‘comedy’ was physical and it must be said that Judith Amsenga as Mrs Peacock and especially Tom Babbage as Reverend Green were both excellent at this. There were a lot of verbal jokes, mostly from last year’s Christmas crackers but none hit the bull on my amusement target. An example was when one of the characters enquired of Wadsworth who he was and when he replied ‘The butler’ was then asked what he did, “I buttle’ came the response. I rest my case.
They also seemed to think it was funny if a phrase were repeated several times over to the point of tedium. Wadsworth also kept giving a recap of the ‘story’ which began to feel like a padding job. Having said that it was, in fact, Jean-Luke Worrell as Wadsworth who kept the thing moving. His physicality was one of contortion rather than of falling down.
The headline names; Michelle Collins as Miss Scarlett and Daniel Casey, Professor Plum, were alright and did their job by attracting the soap watchers.
There were a couple of instances in the show when ‘mistakes’ happened; one when a policeman’s moustache fell of and another when a false door opened prematurely, but, as this is from the same stable as The Play That Goes Wrong, I was wondering as to whether these were carefully staged ‘accidents’.
A couple of things which were not staged was the music playing as we took our seats, and the set/lighting. The music on the radio before curtain up was meant to get us into the mood of the period but was so soft as to be almost inaudible. The set was an ingenious three-sided affair with doors all over the place to facilitate the comings and goings, but it also had hinged parts to quickly transform the stage into a different room. The only problem was that the main door to the house was on the wall directly opposite the audience and it had a glass window in it. When the spotlight was on the characters entering it reflected back so brightly that I had to blink a few times to rid myself of the blinding effect. Should the Director wish to check, I was in seat H16 of the stalls.
You may have gathered from this that I was less than impressed by the play and doubly disappointed as it was the first production of the year so it has been a long wait. I suppose the good thing is that the rest of the season can only be an improvement. Anyway, I am in need of some cerebral recharging now so CBBC here I come.
If you like your comedy on the silly side then Cluedo runs until Saturday 26th March. For more details and tickets please go to https://leedsheritagetheatres.com/whats-on/cluedo/
All photographs by Craig Sugden and supplied by Leeds Heritage Theatres.