Cluedo 2, Bath Theatre Royal

THERE’S no Business like Show Business … so goes the lyric of Irving Berlin’s song from Annie Get Your Gun, and there is nothing better than good comic business to lift even a modestly written farcical comedy into an evening of riotous fun.

Although this play may be described as a spoof of a murder mystery, deep down it is a farcical comedy, and therefore all the rules that apply to that most difficult form of theatre apply to this production. It has to be played at great pace, never allowing the audience to realise just how farcical some of the statements and situations are, and, under the direction of Mark Bell (the man responsible for The Play that Goes Wrong), it certainly ticked that box.

With the actors changing David Farley’s cleverly designed sets on the run, sometimes walking through opening doors as they were being moved, there was never a pause as we moved through every room in the Cluedo house. Dialogue too was rattled off at great speed, sometimes leaving you wanting to cry out: “Could you repeat that, I missed it first time around”.

There’s no time for subtlety in acting either – the well-known Cluedo characters have to be, and were, painted with quick, bold brush strokes. Miss Scarlett (Strictly Come Dancing winner Ellie Leach), Colonel Mustard (Jason Durr from Heartbeat and Casualty), Edward Howells’ Professor Plum, Dawn Buckland’s Mrs White, Gabriel Paul’s Reverend Green, Hannah Boyce’s Mrs Peacock, Liam Horrigan as Rick, the first of many victims, Jack Bennett’s actor-cum-butler Wadsworth, and Tiwai Muza’s plodding PC Silver did them proud.

Bafta award-winning writers Laurence Marks and Maurice Gran have come up with a lightweight script that throws the spotlight in turn on all these characters as either victim or possible murderer. Like all such scripts, whilst throwing up a string of quick-fire verbal gags, which the cast attack with great alacrity, it is really a framework for comic business to evolve, and at this early stage of a near year-long tour. not enough of this has, as yet, evolved.

All the great farce teams from the past spent countless hours thinking up, and working to perfect comic business, which time after time took simple lightweight comedy plays onto a much higher plane. Often they would admit that some of these ideas arose by accident as the production progressed, and the close-knit teams became more and more used to feeding off one another. With that in mind, and some excellent characters already in place, it looks certain that by the time this production reaches the Hall for Cornwall, from 9th to 13th July, and Cheltenham’s Everyman Theatre from 16th to 20th July, an already-pleasant evening of fun will have become a riot of comedy.

If you can guess who dun it by the interval you will be light years ahead of Bath’s Theatre Royal audience, most of whom were still not sure who was responsible for the mayhem when the final curtain came down.


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