CLUEDO 2

“A Crazy Ride of Hilarity and Silliness.”

Gill Sherry

Was it Professor Plum, with the candlestick in the library? Or was it Mrs Peacock, with the revolver in the dining room?

My childhood memories are full of Cluedo. The murder mystery board game was always the first to be pulled from the cupboard whenever my cousins came to visit. There’s an element of nostalgia associated with the curiously-named characters, and I would happily indulge in a game today, given the opportunity.

There is, however, a better way to relive the Cluedo experience than by blowing the dust off those old cards: CLUEDO 2. This brand new play, written by Maurice Gran and Laurence Marks (the BAFTA award-winning writers behind Goodnight Sweetheart and Birds of a Feather) and directed by Mark Bell (director of The Play That Goes Wrong) is currently touring the UK and will be performed at Glasgow’s Theatre Royal for five nights in June. And who better to tell me all about it than the actors playing Miss Scarlett and Colonel Mustard?

“Everybody knows Cluedo from the board game,” says Ellie Leach, who plays Miss Scarlett in the play. “This is a reimagined stage play of the game. You see books being adapted for film and things like that but you don’t ever see board games being adapted for theatre so I think that’s very exciting.”

CLUEDO 2 is a murder mystery set in the 1960s and although one of the main characters (Mr Black) is a rock ‘n’ roll legend, the production is not a musical.

“It’s definitely a play,” confirms Ellie, “but there are musical elements to it. I think it has a little bit of everything. My favourite part about it is that the whole family can come along and watch it and really immerse themselves in the story, go through the plot, and become their own detectives to find out whodunit, with what, in which room. It’s an amazing play, it’s lots of fun.”

Jason Durr, AKA Professor Plum, agrees: “It’s a joy! We’re all having a great time doing it. From the moment the curtain goes up, it’s a crazy ride of hilarity and silliness. It’s so funny that it’s actually quite difficult for us to keep a straight face… we’re all trying desperately not to laugh. It’s just great fun… and you’re kept guessing right up to the last minute as to who did it. Obviously we know who did it, but it’s still enjoyable to get up on stage and perform it every night.”

Jason, although best known for his TV roles in Heartbeat and Casualty, is no stranger to the stage. He trained at the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art (LAMDA) and began his career with the Royal Shakespeare Company.

“I’ve been very fortunate in my career over the last 30 years to have had such a broad range of parts. What I’ve always tried to do is play very differing types of roles so that they always keep me interested. Getting back to the stage and doing CLUEDO 2 has been brilliant because acting for television is a very different discipline to acting on stage.”

Having only previously acted for television, Ellie is just beginning to discover those differences.

“It’s my first experience on stage which I’m very excited about. Obviously, it’s very different to being on TV. With TV you can go again if you get something wrong, whereas on stage you only get one chance. It’s also a lot bigger and a lot bolder. I think that’s something I struggled with at the start and something that I’m continuing to work on, especially because it’s completely new for me, it’s completely out of my comfort zone. But I’m really having fun pushing those boundaries and every time we do a show I learn something new about myself as an actor, as a person, and about my character and the story. So it’s really challenging me in an amazing way.”

Jason elaborates on the bigger and bolder scenario: “You can do really small intricate things in front of a television camera where just a small look of the eye, or those little gestures are picked up by the camera. When you’re on stage, you have to make everything much bigger and bolder so that the people right at the back of the stalls and up in the dress circle can see what you’re trying to put across.”

The fact that CLUEDO 2 is a comedy does, however, make things a little easier, as Jason explains: “One of the benefits of this particular play is… comedy is a universal language. Everybody loves to laugh and so for us, it’s just a joy. To be able to get up on stage every night and make people laugh is a wonderful thing. A bit of comedy and light entertainment goes a long way.”

Both Ellie and Jason are full of enthusiasm about their respective roles, and it certainly sounds as though they’re enjoying the tour so far.

“Comedy and laughter is a bit of a drug,” says Jason. “The show is a laugh a minute and it’s infectious. It’s fast, furious and funny… an ever increasing circle of madness and mayhem!”

“We’ve really been able to create this whole new world,” adds Ellie, “bring the characters to life and add our own little touches to them. For me, one of the best parts is being able to share that with an audience.”

Although this is Ellie’s first experience of live theatre, Strictly fans will know it’s not the first time she has performed in front of an audience.

Strictly was the hardest thing that I’ve ever done!” says the current holder of that coveted Glitterball Trophy. “I didn’t really have any expectations going into it… I didn’t know how hard it was going to be and didn’t know how much fun I was going to have. It was the most incredible experience and something that I’ll really cherish for the rest of my life. It taught me so much, not only about dance but also about myself. It completely changed my life and I just feel so lucky that I was able to have that experience. And then for me and Vito to win and lift that Glitterball, it just felt like the cherry on top of the most amazing, delicious cake!”

Prior to taking part in (and winning) Strictly Come Dancing, Ellie had played the role of Faye Windass in Coronation Street for 12 years, a role she secured at just nine years old.

“It went so fast but also felt like a lifetime,” she says of her 12 years on the cast. “I think that I spent the most important years of my life there. It was a wonderful experience and a great place to be able to grow up. I feel very lucky that I had the chance to spend so many years there. At times… I would see my on-screen family more than I would see my own family. It really became like a family to me and that’s something I will always treasure. It was amazing to be with such incredible actors and learn so much from them as I went along.”

As an actor, though, the opportunity to learn never ends and from Ellie’s point of view, who better to learn from than Jason Durr? Particularly when he shares advice such as this:

“I think it’s really healthy for actors, if you’ve done a lot of tele, to then go off and just flex different muscles so that you can get on stage. It’s more interesting for you as a person to experiment and get on the stage and then once you’ve done that, you can leave that behind and go and do some more tele. It just keeps things really interesting. That’s what I’ve always found in my career.”

In the meantime, they’re both still enjoying entertaining audiences with their portrayals of Miss Scarlett and Colonel Mustard.

“We’re all having a great time,” Jason confirms. “And that immediate feedback is fantastic, that’s really the barometer. Audiences are fabulous because they come along and they laugh at all the right places. It’s a two-way street, we really play off them and they play off us. They get invested. When someone gets killed (I’m not saying who!) they ooh and aah and they gasp. We all know it’s just a play but they’re right there with us.”

The more they talk about the play, the more it reminds me of those childhood games with my cousins. It would be easy to assume that both Jason and Ellie have similar memories. Jason’s memories, I learn, are more recent, his children having gifted him a version of the game last Christmas. As for Ellie: “I actually have never played it!”

Her admission prompts a sharp intake of breath from myself and Jason.

“I know,” she says, “it’s criminal! But we were never really board-gamey people. Definitely on tour, we’ll get a game going.”

In the meantime, the tour of CLUEDO 2 continues which, incidentally, is not connected to the first CLUEDO tour, but is a brand new story which audiences can enjoy without having seen the first.
“Whether you’re a big fan of Cluedo or you’re not,” Jason says, “you’re still going to have a great evening’s entertainment.”

And after the tour, what’s next for the two actors? I hope for an exclusive, but get something very different from Jason: “If I told you, I’d have to kill you… with the rope in the ballroom!”

“I’m the same as Jason,” says Ellie, “but I’d pick a different weapon!”

CLUEDO 2 runs at Theatre Royal Glasgow from 4-8 June. Tickets are available at www.cluedostageplay.com