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Review: Cluedo at Wolverhampton Grand Theatre

There’s mayhem and madness this week at Wolverhampton Grand Theatre as the quintessential British comedy Whodunit, Cluedo hits the city.

Cluedo at Wolverhampton Grand Theatre
Cluedo at Wolverhampton Grand Theatre

This ever-popular board game started life with an alternative title, “Murder!” and was originally created by Birmingham-born Anthony Pratt, who was keen to while away the hours spent in World War Two bomb shelters. But, post-war, the rights to the game were purchased by Waddington’s and thus became “Cluedo.”

Making the transition from board game to movie version was one thing, and the result, complete with an all-star cast was amusing, if a little odd. The stage version however, is definitely a hit.

Isn’t it odd that the extremes of murder and comedy often go hand in hand? Perhaps it is the very British stiff upper lip, unflappable, keep calm and carry-on attitude towards death so typical of the era. We shouldn’t laugh, but we just cannot help it, and this production is without a doubt hilarious!

Six colourful guests are invited to dinner by a Mr Boddy, to the aptly named Boddy Manor, although they have no previous knowledge of their host and no idea why they are there. Sounds familiar?

I’m sure Agatha Christie could claim royalties, but then that is the basis of most Whodunit’s, so you can guess what happens next!

The perfectly chosen cast of the six main characters all displayed superb comedic skills and timing, while the supporting cast did a sterling job of playing several different roles.

Jean-Luke Worrell gave a smooth performance as the evil butler, Wadsworth, engaging the audience from the off. There is more than a hint of Tim Curry, the Wadsworth in the film version, but he still made the role his own with the perfect mix of laugh-out loud funny moments and yet slightly sinister movements and facial expressions.

Eastenders super siren, Michelle Collins as Miss Scarlett was glamorous and sensual but with a common touch. But don’t be fooled into thinking this star is defined by her soap role. She is an extraordinarily talented comedy actress too.

Wesley Griffith as Colonel Mustard was the perfect English gentlemen, nice but dim, while Tom Babbage as Reverend Green displays excellent physical comedy skills. His interaction with the chandelier was a huge highlight of the evening.

Daniel Casey was the perfect Professor Plum with an air of superiority, and Etisyai Philip as Mrs White delivered one of the funniest moments in the play as she attempts to wake Mrs Peacock, supposedly from the dead.

But, the comedy performance of the evening belonged to Judith Amsenga as Mrs Peacock, with her hilarious characterisation of a mature, well-to-do English woman. Her comedy timing, stance and delivery of lines was second to none.

Sandy Rustin’s script is witty and pacy, provoking laughter at every turn.

The scenery was cleverly designed so that the cast move seamlessly from room to room and the overall atmosphere of the piece was dark and brooding, with every corny, classic horror effect imaginable, including the inevitable thunder and lightning. Add to that, the eerie background music which leaves a sense of foreboding, even though you know you will be laughing in the next second.

Mark Bell’s direction is innovative and exciting, while Anna Healey’s movement, (it is not choreography as such) is unusual, suitably strange and perfectly suits the quirkiness of the play.

So, was it Miss Scarlett in the ballroom with the candlestick? Colonel Mustard in the kitchen with the spanner or Mrs White in the library with the rope?

Whether you want to solve the murder for yourself, or simply fancy an evening of pure entertainment, nostalgia, totally silliness and laughs galore, Cluedo is a must.

I am fetching the board game out of my attic as we speak!

For tickets visit grandtheatre.co.uk or call 01902 429212. Runs until Saturday.

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