REVIEW: Cluedo 2 – Theatre Royal – Nottingham


Inspired by the classic Hasbro board game, Cluedo 2 attempts to bring a fresh comedy mystery to the stage, but unfortunately, it struggles to hit the mark. Despite being crafted by BAFTA Award winners Laurence Marks and Maurice Gran, and directed by Mark Bell, known for his work on The Play That Goes Wrong, the show fails to deliver a coherent or engaging experience.

Dawn Buckland as Mrs. White is a bright spot in the production. Her comedic timing and nuanced performance evoke the spirit of a Victoria Wood character, making her scenes the most enjoyable. She brings a significant amount of humor to the show, often carrying the comedic weight single-handedly. Jack Bennett as Wadsworth, the butler/non-butler, also impresses with a solid and believable portrayal, showcasing his comedic talent effectively. Hannah Boyce’s Mrs. Peacock stands out as well, delivering a strong and dynamic performance that adds depth to her character without falling into one-dimensionality.

However, these commendable performances are not enough to save the show from its many flaws. The rest of the cast delivers performances that are largely lackluster and one-note, failing to bring the necessary energy or depth to their roles. This inconsistency in performance quality is a significant drawback.

The writing by Laurence Marks and Maurice Gran is the primary issue. The plot is a muddled mess, failing to commit to any single genre. It’s not farcical enough to be a farce, not consistently funny enough to be a comedy, and lacks the necessary intrigue to be a compelling mystery. The setting in the sixties feels superficial, influencing only the costumes of Miss Scarlet and Professor Plum, while the musical choices lean towards the seventies, and the manor house setting and costumes evoke the thirties or forties. This temporal confusion adds to the overall sense of disorganisation.

Character development is almost non-existent, making the classic reveals at the end feel sudden and unsatisfying. There is little effort to weave the mystery throughout the show, with a lack of red herrings or clever clues, leading to an unsatisfying and bizarre resolution. The method in which one character is killed with multiple weapons (knife, lead piping, rope, and wrench) epitomizes the show’s overcomplicated and unfocused approach.

The comedy is hit-or-miss. While there are a few genuinely funny moments, the humor often resorts to cheap panto-esque gags and recurring jokes that quickly lose their charm. This reliance on lowbrow humor undermines the potential for more sophisticated comedy.

Mark Bell’s direction, along with Anna Healey’s movement direction, manages to navigate the numerous setting changes and large cast, but the transition scenes are unnecessarily long and filled with odd sequences involving picture frame movements, dance elements, and billiard playing, which feel like filler rather than integral parts of the show. The use of a clichéd mysteriously cloaked figure to commit crimes is unimaginative and detracts from the overall experience. The show fails to embrace its camp potential, which could have made these stylistic choices more effective and entertaining.

David Farley’s set design is one of the better aspects of the production, with a classic murder mystery aesthetic that works well for the story. The large Cluedo board backdrop is a nice touch but ultimately becomes a distraction, making it hard for the audience to feel immersed in each iconic room. Jason Taylor’s lighting design complements the set nicely, effectively highlighting the different rooms as characters move through them.

In summary, Cluedo 2 at the Nottingham Theatre Royal has moments of promise, particularly in the performances of Buckland, Bennett, and Boyce. However, it is let down by confused writing, inconsistent comedy, and lacklustre character development. The show’s inability to commit to a clear genre or tone results in a disjointed and unsatisfying theatrical experience.

Cluedo 2 plays at the Nottingham Theatre Royal until the 25th of May before continuing on its nationwide tour.

Photography throughout from Alastair Muir.






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