FringeReview UK 2022
Directed by Mark Bell, Movement Director Anna Healey, with David Farley’s Set Design, Jon Fiber’s Sound Designer, Warren Letton’s Lighting, with Kate Lyons’ costumes.
Production Manager Tom Nickson, Robyn Hardy Props Supervisor. Nick Earle CSM, Phoebe Eldekvist DSM, Thomas Worley Technical Assistant SM, Rob Brennan ASM, Anna-Lisa Maree Touring Wardrobe/Wigs.
Till June 18th
How did it all go right? The Play That Goes Wrong director Mark Bell is back with Sandy Rustin’s blissful adaptation of Jonathan Lynn’s screenplay Cluedo, which hits Theatre Royal Brighton like a door-snack in the head. Lots of times.
You didn’t play Cluedo growing up? Nor me, but those half-familiar figures – Colonel Mustard, Miss Scarlett, and so on come to jerky life in this placing of all Cluedo’s characters in a country house whodunnit?
It’s a rough night in March 1949: a wireless brings news of the end of garment rationing and a storm’s up. So reassuring you want to purr. But will a murder be announced? Well, no, a maid’s told to shut the thing off. Six guests arrive, summoned with the same blackmail letter from the house’s owner Mr Body, as Butler Wadsworth informs each arrival. After dinner (splendid slurping from Judith Amsenga’s Mrs Peacock) Mr Body cackles with his plan and gets promptly murdered in a blackout. Or, well who is it really with a bullet then a real enough lead-pipe bloodily attached to his head?
The police have already been summoned. If the guilty six want to find incriminating evidence before they arrive, then they’ll need to take a few risks. Wadsworth leads his unruly six-pack on a murder hunt, which is a bit of a daft thing to do, since all other servant inmates of the house plus a visiting motorist meet curious ends. Are they by any chance old acquaintances?
Of course we don’t really care, in this fast paced, and faster-denouement riot of farcical coincidence and collateral fate.
Directed by Bell, this is a stunning display of split timing, farce that grows from the Goes Wrong stable but equally from One Man Two Guvnors. Movement Director Anna Healey tailors this riotous assembly scattering in all doors and coming to in a snap behind Wadsworth who cracks wit, whip and blackmail like there’s no deference.
David Farley’s set design is rather special too, even if it’s getting slammed a lot. Six doors line the sage-green painted room with a white dado rail of unfeasibly broad proportions above. Each door opens not just onto a room but swings back to reveal intricate pull-outs of the room in question: library, drawing-room, telephone vestibule, each heaves out with something nasty attached. It’s not one of those Goes Wrong machine-that-destroys-itself sets, but one functioning like a precisely-tooled machine with actors as cogs.
Jon Fiber’s sound design adds much harpsichord Bach – the Chaconne in D minor, some Preludes and Fugues, a jazz harpsichord and orchestra piece to give it that funky baroque feel: a bit Draughtsman’s Contract with Michael Nyman’s cod-Purcell, Warren Letton’s lighting starts by spotlighting each door with a colour of the character: scarlet, green, plum, peacock, mustard, white. Kate Lyons’ costumes naturally echo this in the characters’ dresses. They wear what they say on the tin, or card.
This is a supreme ensemble piece with eleven actors interlocked in precision-tooled timing. Pride of place must go to farce-talking, fast-dancing Jean-Luke Worrall as Wadsworth. His stretchy elegance, his crystalline diction his furious pace and corralling of the actors’ energies together mean he leads from the front.
Michelle Collins’ Miss Scarlett is another miracle of manic delivery of numbers in a tongue-twister that never falters, as well as keeping up her Madam front with its accentual slippages.
Daniel Casey’s predatory Professor Plum has a nice line in panicked pomposity, always ready to accuse everyone else and assume command, which he’s not quite equipped here to do; even when he finds a volume of Freud. Who’d give his Harvey hands short shrift.
Laura Kirman’s Yvette dropping her French accent much of the time is the other hardest-working servant, equally a frantic character, not always waving but – you’ll see.
Wesley Griffin’s Colonel Mustard is a neatly dim man whose decisive bark hides a vacuum six inches above it. He doesn’t do nuance well, he confesses. Etisyai Philip’s Mrs White has a nice line in silken dispatches of husbands, so others say. But is she guilty just because she’s so icily sure of herself? Amsenga, who features slurps above, manages a nice hurt line in pricked pomp, wife of a government minister, the picture of – well – peacock privilege with clothing to match.
Tom Babbage’s pratfalling door-in-face hapless Reverend Green seems so exquisitely hapless he couldn’t possibly be the murderer could he? Or worse? Meg Travers mainly plays Cook with food announcement and a line in sharp knives, a Telegram woman, and a policewoman garbed like Vera. Harry Bradley’s menacingly suave Mr Body ought to be separately noticed too, even if he’s on for so brief a time. He’s also the Motorist, the first policeman, and one might put it the third policeman, or Inspector.
The forty-five minutes first half sets up the frantically-paced thirty-five minutes of the second act, with its manic reprises, resets as time winds back to alternate explanations (a bit Constellations in reverse) and naturally a complete surprise. In all these there’s nods to famed Whodunnits but as that would be telling, indeed telling more than one plot, you’ll have to see it.
It’s a pleasure to watch this beautifully-tailored idiocy, as sharp in its narrow compass as any Goes Wrong confection; not so much tweaking those Whitehall farce origins as setting their pants on fire. The ensemble’s remarkable, with Worrell and Collins deserving special praise – but then a litany of excellence above (Babbage’s farceur brilliance with those doors – think One Man, Two Guvnors – Amsenga’s perpetual collapses) tells you why there’s not a weak link. There mightn’t be the emotional wow you get with the Goes Wrong brand; it’s not that kind of show. Each character is a cut-out card. But it’s an object lesson in comic timing; a steep cut above the ‘real’ whodunnits we’re likely to see this year or next.