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Cluedo 2 - Norwich Theatre Royal (02.07.2024)

This production, based on the much-loved Hasbro board game has so much going for it. The script was penned by Emmy and BAFTA-winners Maurice Grant and Laurence Marks, it's directed by Mark Bell of The Play That Goes Wrong renown, it has a quality cast including the brilliant Jason Durr, and even a 'star name' in Strictly Come Dancing winning actress Ellie Leach. Yet while it was an entertaining and funny jaunt, this spoof murder mystery lacked any real killer instinct.

The action takes place in the sprawling mansion of Mr Black, a rock artist whose star is on the wane. His preening, faux-poetic persona appears to be based on Russell Brand, and it comes as little surprise when he's bumped off. It's then left to the remaining characters to discover who among them is the killer.

There's Black's grasping wife, Mrs Peacock (she's kept her previous husband's surname) who is having a romantic dalliance with Professor Plum, the least distinct of the characters. Colonel Mustard (seemingly based on Colonel Tom Parker) is Black's manager, and is desparately hoping for a lucrative payday from his client. Miss Scarlett, an interior designer, is hanging around while the housekeeper Mrs White busies herself. Our leads are completed by Reverend Green, Black's estranged former songwriting partner, and Wadsworth, a former butler, who is now an actor pretending to be a butler for a gin commercial who takes exception at being seen as a butler.

The first half feels distinctly Agatha Christie-esque (to whom this production clearly pays homage) insofar as it's largely setting the scene and introducing the characters, and as a result is a little light on the laughs. However, the second Act begins in fine style and never really lets up until the conclusion, whereupon we're served up twist upon twist upon twist in a real comedy pastiche of the murder mystery genre.

Being set in the 60s, the colourful costumes aid the show as a visual spectacle and the set, though relatively sparse, was effective enough. For me, the biggest issue was the script. The jokes felt very samey and laboured - the Hal Green/Al Green schtick got boring quickly, and the 'butler, but not a butler' gag wore off long before the end. Sure, there was a number of laughs along the way, particularly the visual and physical humour, but it's telling that the biggest laugh of the night came when they relied on that old pantomime trope of referencing a local place.

All in all though, it does provide a great evenings' entertainment, so is worth a watch. Cluedo 2 continues at Norwich Theatre Royal until 6 July.


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