Did Professor Plum kill the Reverend Green in the Ballroom with the Candlestick? No this is not the latest kinky sex scandal to hit London but rather the sort of question you might ask yourself whilst watching The Cluedo Club Killings – the latest production by the Arcola Queer Collective.
Based at the Arcola Theatre in Dalston, East London the collective explores queer identity and how to present it theatrically. The Queer Collective’s past productions create “punchy, radical and riotous re-imaginings of classics” and what a great choice of a classic they have chosen to re-invent this time around.
Cluedo (known as CLUE in the US) is that quintessential British board game, invented during the war years and set in the roaring 20’s. It has at its heart incredibly strong characters, dramatic tension and intrigue by the bucket full and its all wrapped up in the campest of setting – an English country house. Throw in a billiard room and a few secret passages and hey presto – you have all the arched eyebrow shenanigans you could want.
This update takes us to a student campus where Esther Jones (perkily played by Natasha Sophia Brown) investigates a dastardly Murder. Brown single-handedly manages to keep the whole show on the road through a mixture of energy, and clarity of intention – incredibly important in a show where we are advised by the director to “suspect everyone – even the person sitting next to you!”
A special mention must also go to the adorable Professor Plum, played with brio and panache by Vix Dillon. It may be the writing (thank you playwright Robert Holtom!) but the Professor seems to have the snappiest lines and the most developed comic character.
This re-creation offers us a radical critique of the murder mystery genre as Mr. Peacock launches a spirited attack on the cisgendered and heteronormative endings you find in classic TV detective series such as Sherlock, Columbo, Poirot, Luther, Lewis and even Marple (noooo say it ain’t true!).
Unfortunately, this update actually drains the tension from drama – it dilutes what needs to be a rigorous, intellectual game of cat and mouse. A good murder mystery should give you a whole range of clues that you may or may not figure out – there were not enough clues in Cluedo! It was, however, a fun night out with a hugely appreciative audience and the cast had a blast too.
The Cluedo Club Killings Arcola Theatre 26th February - 2nd March 2018 Review by JONNY WARD Queerguru London Correspondent