WHEN Mark Bell took on the challenge of directing The Play that Goes Wrong, he opted for out- and-out farce dominated by mimed comedy, and as was seen last week in Bath in the new reworking of his original production, it is a formula that works a treat.
Faced with transferring a 1985 film version of one of the most popular and well-loved board games ever invented, he took a slightly more subtle approach to the comedy on offer.
Never having played the board game or seen the film, I cannot vouch for the authenticity of the characters created by former EastEnders and Coronation Street inhabitant Michelle Collins (Miss Scarlett), Sgt Troy from Midsomer Murders Daniel Casey (Professor Plum), Jean-Luke Worrell (Wadsworth, the butler), using some tongue twisting dialogue in a manner reminiscent of the great Danny Kaye, Laura Kirman (the Maid), Wesley Griffith (Colonel Mustard), Etisyai Philip (Mrs White), Judith Amsenga (Mrs Peacock) and Tom Babbage (Reverend Green), but they looked and sounded very convincing to a layman.
They made good use Sandy Rustin’s script, which, to slightly mis-quote Emperor Joseph II in Amadeus, telling Mozart there were ‘Too many notes”, there were times in Cluedo when there seemed to be too many words, preventing the introduction of more mimed comedy. And when it comes to directing mimed comedy Mark Bell is a master tactician.
Supplied by designer David Farley with a wonderfully inventive set which kept reinventing itself so that we moved at pace through almost every room in the manor house wherein the murders were being committed, the director set up a terrific sequence of visual comedy. Rather like the opening scene in a farcical comedy, which introduces the audience to the characters and improbable situations they are about to find themselves in, the first act took a little while to introduce us to the style of humour about to be presented.
By the time we reached the interval, the vast majority of the audience were caught up in the possibilities of who was villain and whom was hero, and keen to see how things developed in Act 2.
What developed was some lovely pieces often silent comic business, as, sent off in pairs, each partner highly suspicious of the other, they went to look for the murderer.
This moved on into full-scale mimed farce, as David Farley’s sets came fully into their own, the action moving from one location to another with dazzling speed throwing up one opportunity to create one comedy after another – opportunities which the director and cast gobbled up with the enthusiasm of a chocoholic denied access to their favourite brand of sweets.
I have a feeling that neither having played the board game nor seen the film left me at a disadvantage, and those in possession of the inside information could share jokes and comedy situations which by passed me. If you are a Cluedo enthusiast this play is a must for you, as for the rest of us I suggest an evening or so with family familiarising yourself with the characters before returning for another crack at this stage version of the game.