Comedy thriller Cluedo is 'a piece of fast-paced fun'

The cast of Cluedo 

The cast of Cluedo - Credit: Craig Sugden

Angela Singer reviews Cluedo at Cambridge Arts Theatre. 

The cast of Cluedo 

Was it Miss Scarlett, with the revolver in the dining room, or Professor Plum, with the lead pipe in the library…? Find out in Cluedo. - Credit: Craig Sugden

As an almost full house at Cambridge Arts Theatre hushed as the lights dimmed, a clearly enunciated male voice from a wireless on stage announces the end of rationing for fabric.

Gentlemen, he says cheerfully, might now want to order a suit from Savile Row.

It’s 1949. Cluedo the play is set in the year the board game was launched – having been devised during the war by a Birmingham musician, Anthony Pratt, and his wife Elva.

Before the war, he had played the piano in country mansions where after dinner the guests would scatter through the house and try to work out who had apparently killed one of them.

He said that “all the fun ended” when they were reduced to “creeping into cinemas between air-raids.”

The show reflects the spirit in which he invented the game. It’s a wonderfully choreographed romp. Movement director Anna Healey is to be commended for the precision of a show which thinks it might have been a ballet.

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The clever set by David Farley is based around a grand entrance hall but allows us to see into the other rooms: the library, the study, the billiard room, the kitchen, the dining room, the conservatory, and the lounge.

The characters are all glorious stereotypes and it’s a sheer piece of fun.

Michelle Collins plays Miss Scarlett in Cluedo, which can be seen at Cambridge Arts Theatre.

Michelle Collins plays Miss Scarlett in Cluedo, which can be seen at Cambridge Arts Theatre. - Credit: Craig Sugden

One by one, we are introduced to the six characters we have passed so many times around the board: Miss Scarlett, Michelle Collins in a beautifully clinging red dress, Professor Plum, Colonel Mustard – Wesley Griffith with his curls sticking out to one side as if he has just got off a plane as one of “the few”, Mrs White, Mrs Peacock and Reverend Green.

All the cast acts with great aplomb. There are no weak links. Each character is given a potential murder weapon: spanner, lead piping, rope, revolver, candlestick and dagger.

But here’s the thing. They don’t murder each other. The bodies dramatically found dead are the house staff and any hapless visitors on a stormy night.

This is a piece of fast-paced fun – with a lot of laughs throughout but there is just one link between then and now – which resonated hugely with the audience, a reference to the Lynskey Tribunal.

This was an inquiry into allegations that ministers at the Board of Trade had allowed certain shady businessmen to get round rationing. It sounds as petty now as partygate is beginning to for some, but at the time it was regarded as important enough to bring Attorney-General Sir Hartley Shawcross back from the Nuremberg Trials. It was about breaking rules. The British do like to see fair play.

Jean-Luke Worrell plays the butler in Cluedo.

Jean-Luke Worrell plays the butler in Cluedo. - Credit: Craig Sugden

And this is a jolly fair play. An ensemble cast directed by Mark Bell (of the Play That Goes Wrong series) stands up, falls down, falls over, falls under and certainly delivers. There is a stand-out performance from Jean-Luke Worrell as Wadsworth the Butler who is the centrepiece of the show.

Who actually dunit is revealed at the end as we might expect. The clues are scattered throughout.

I was too entranced by the performances to be looking for them but you can have even more fun if you do. A great half-term treat.

Cluedo is at Cambridge Arts Theatre until Saturday, February 19, then touring.