Photo: Alastair Muir

What a baptism of fire for a former soap star and Strictly Come Dancing winner, to be flung headlong into a crazy fast paced comedy by sit-com legends Marks and Gran. There was seldom any comedy in Coronation Street for Ellie Leach to play with or learn from. Given all of this she makes a decent fist of things in a production that is packed with cluttered gags, crazy choreographed scene shifting and multiple characters – and by the end she finds her footing, some feat indeed.

Cluedo 2 is set in the latest sixties, the age of prog rock and screaming guitar solos and the setting is the home of a major pop star surrounded by his acolytes, all of whom have a grudge to bear. And in classic whodunnit fashion each grudge is exposed. It should be an hilarious hubbub of homicidal humour, and at times it gets there – but not often enough. Where pacey playing would work we got an awful lot of rushed movement and garbled dialogue. Much of this might be apportioned to this being the first night for this cast but a lot of the blame must lie with the restless direction, even the posed mugged moments seemed thrown away and, despite starting slightly late, the whole finished on the scheduled time. How I wanted a moment to breathe, for me and for that frantically busy cast.

Photo: Dave Hogan

There are despite all these misgivings some decent performances, and one truly wobbly stuffed bear, and the setting and lighting are stylish enough although fighting for space on Theatre Royal Brighton’s small (but perfectly formed) stage.

Jason Durr looks the part but his accent, so rapidly dispensed is at times impenetrable, but he does have an appropriately sinister edge. Jack Bennett’s actor-cum-butler is wonderfully pompous and gets the role just right and Liam Horrigan, with the biggest task, is genuinely funny. But the best character is Mrs White the cook, played with class by Dawn Buckland, every inch the aggrieved domestic, think Mrs Bridges with a literal axe to grind.

Cluedo 2 as yet does not reach the comedy heights of Cluedo 1 but given time might do so, but time is the key here. The whole needs to be pacey, sharp and precise, last night it felt shaky and rushed, it needs to take it easy, land the gags and hone the movement.

Andrew Kay

19 March

Theatre Royal Brighton

Rating: ★★★☆☆

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