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The Cluedo Club Killings – 3 Stars

Cluedo

The Cluedo Club Killings

King’s Head Theatre

Reviewed – 29th July 2018

★★★

“Robert Holtom’s admirable script does keep the audience guessing”

 

An open coffin dominates the space. Dr Black, recently deceased, lies inside, resting in peace. There’s been a murder, “a most grave affair”… Thus begins Arcola Queer Collective’s unique theatrical attempt at redefining the murder mystery genre. Directed by Nat Kennedy, the show is fun, frivolous and a little bit naughty, creating an enticing crime fiction plot whilst simultaneously reconfiguring the symbolism that make the genre so watchable.

The titular student-ran Cluedo Club regularly meet to dress up in colour-coded character and play everyone’s favourite murder mystery board game. But one night, a power cut disrupts the fooling around, and Reverend Green’s body is found stabbed with a knife in the kitchen. Whodunnit? What secrets are the Cluedo Club trying to hide? Enter Miss Marple wannabe Esther Jones to solve the case using her extensive knowledge of crime fiction to whittle down the suspects. Robert Holtom’s admirable script does keep the audience guessing, and the layering of fictional tropes atop of a real-life crime means the audience learn, guess and deduce with Esther throughout. Some witty one-liners (“Watch out for any lead piping!”) pepper the script, and its overstated, over-the-top style is taken on well by the ensemble. Holtom has almost created a sub-genre of their own – is this the beginning of a queer crime series?

Each character is thoughtfully established and a treat to watch. Despite some shake-y, student-y performances, Jones is by far the strongest played character, both committed to the ham whilst still adhering to character. Lacking perhaps in space, the transitions between scenes could do with some work, but generally speaking, Nat Kennedy creates a coherent and consistent piece of work where each actor knows exactly what they are there for.

Where Holtom’s script fails is the botched climactic reveal, and the unnecessary dip into ‘preachy theatre land’. The former feels rushed and confused; the latter asking the audience (who, by the way, have chosen to come to the King’s Head Theatre on a Sunday as part of Queer Season) to dwell for a moment on the negative (underrepresentation of queer lives in the arts) they surely already know exists. Trust your audience to get the message without ramming it down their throats and let them enjoy seeing queer lives on stage rather than preaching that they do so.

All in all, this is a fabulous piece and a good bit of fun, as any good murder mystery should be, leaving this reviewer at least, guessing until the end.

 

Reviewed by Joseph Prestwich

Photography by Ali Wright

 


The Cluedo Club Killings

King’s Head Theatre

 

 

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