Tuesday, 28 June 2022

THEATRE REVIEW: Cluedo - The Lowry Theatre, Salford.


Who remembers playing that wonderful board game where you have to deduce, through your own super-sleuthing, who the murderer was, in which room it happened, and with which murder weapon? 'Colonel Mustard, in the library with the lead pipng!'.. that sort of thing. It was certainly a staple in our household when I was young. That was just one of the reasons I was looking forward to seeing a live theatre adaptation of the game.

This evening's presentation at Salford's Lowry Theatre however was both surprising and interesting, although I use both words in a less than positive sense sadly. It is true that certain character names had been kept (albeit as pseudonyms), and it was true that the action took place in a large manor house, and there was a secret passageway from the conservatory to the lounge, but in all other respects, this play bore absolutely no resemblance whatsoever to the classic board game of my childhood. 

Director Mark Bell had utilised a strong cast of comedy performers whose timing and delivery were executed with split-second precision, and their physicality and stylised performances worthy of a contemporary circus troupe; however, what we were presented with was a style of acting which one was completely unable to sympathise with as these cardboard-cut-out caricatures did very silly things in a very silly manner whilst murdering half the cast along the way!

To give you some idea, if you were to somehow combine, Agatha Chrsitie's 'And Then There Were None' with 'The Play That Goes Wrong', an episode of 'Allo Allo', any Whitehall farce you care to name, a Frantic Assembly production, and have the whole directed by a choreographer, you may well end up with something like 'Cluedo'! Most unfortunately for this reviewer at least, I found that the plot is too ridiculous for us to care about, and the whole of the first act simply goes nowhere, finding the whole trite and simply unfunny. Sadly, despite the proficiency of the cast, they can do nothing to lift the mood and the whole is a lamentable monochrome of madness and mediocrity. The cast fail to inject humour into what is sometimes a very funny script, by their completely over-the-top exaggerated style of performance; this also means that there is no chemistry at all between any of the cast, and so we do not care for them or their situation. All the dynamics are the same, and we are heavily reliant on unrealistic sound effects to create 'tension'. Maybe the problem lies in the fact that the production team were trying to produce a British version of an American play, which was based on an American film, which in turn was actually based on the British board game. If they'd simply cut out all the middle-men here they may well have hit upon a success.

The funniest moment of the whole play was an actual, unscripted mistake, where the policeman's false moustache fell off mid-performance, and this caused genuine hilarity and some lovely ad-libbing from the cast. This proves that the cast are indeed consummate professionals and excellent actors, but sadly they have been directed in a way to make them appear ridiculous, in a production which relies heavily on cliched and platudinous over-exaggerated farcical miming and overblown charaterisation.

In all fairness, this evening's audience was split about half-and-half. Half, like myself, were wishing we were elsewhere, whilst the other half seemed to be enjoying it and laughing in all the right places. I guess it just goes to show you never can tell...! But if you go thinking there will be only one murder, and it will be a comedy thriller, then you're in for a surprise! 

Reviewer - Matthew Dougall
on - 27.6.22