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Colourful suspects in a comedy whodunnit

REVIEW: Cluedo 2 at New Theatre

It's the late 1960s, and failing rock star Rick Black (Liam Horrigan) is about to play the tapes of his comeback album to his manor-houseful of invited guests - but then he's found dead in his home studio.

Who would want to kill him? Almost everyone!

But why? And who's responsible for the series of murders that follow?

It's the perfect set-up for a comedy whodunnit, and Cluedo 2 - the follow-up to the original Cluedo play - treads familiar territory (inspired by the board game, marking its 75th anniversary this year) with its cast of colourful suspects.

They're led by TV stars Jason Durr (as Black's money-grubbing manager, Colonel Mustard) and Ellie Leach in her stage debut (as the glamorous interior designer, Miss Scarlet).

Then there's Black's widow Mrs Peacock (Hannah Boyce), his sound engineer 'Professor' Plum (Edward Howells), former bandmate the Reverend Green (Gabriel Paul), housekeeper Mrs White (Dawn Buckland), and butler Wadsworth (Jack Bennett).

In fact, Wadsworth isn't really a butler - a point he explains 37 times - but it's a great running gag. The same can be said for the ongoing confusion over the Reverend Hal Green, who's repeatedly confused with the much more accomplished Reverend Al Green!

The domestic 'staff', Wadsworth and Mrs White have the best comic moments, and the actors work hard to get every available laugh. The same is true for the rest of the cast, even though the script sometimes lets them down, especialy in the first half.

This is far from the strongest work by the BAFTA Award-winning TV writing duo, Laurence Marks and Maurice Gran (Birds of a Feather and Dreamboats and Petticoats), but it livens up considerably after the interval.

And the brief musical interludes between scenes, when the cast rearrange the scenery are brilliantly choreographed and sometimes funnier than the scenes they puncuate - credit to movement director Anna Healey and set designer David Farley.

The play is directed by Mark Bell, who directed the original Cluedo play in the UK and The Play That Goes Wrong, so it's no surprise that the physical humour works so well - look out for a clever visual gag with a snooker table, and the cast exiting pursued by a bear!

And the inevitable incompetent police officers deserve special mention - Liam Horrigan (back again) as theatre-loving Detective Inspector Brown and Tiwai Muza as PC Silver, who's furious about people putting up their Chrstmas decorations too early.

Cluedo 2's Cardiff leg of its UK tour opened at the New Theatre last night (Tuesday 25 June) and plays until Saturday (29 June). For more information or to book tickets, call the box office 0343 310 0041 or book online here.

Review by Andy Weltch

Photo: Alastair Muir

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