First time director Daniel Tandler did well with this fast-paced and at times tricky script. True to the original board game Cluedo (or Clue as it’s known in North America), there were the familiar characters – Colonel Mustard, Mrs White and the rest, and an array of familiar murder weapons – candlestick, dagger and so on. On the way through the narrative, we are treated to a few murders, multiple suspects and a considerable number of one-liners and farce-based physical mishaps and misunderstandings. Tandler’s cast managed it all very well. Together they made the most of the restricted stage area by playing the action on the stage itself and occasionally on a platform in front of it. Further, the set was extremely spare – a free-standing door and some handy furniture – which allowed the cast to indulge in the knock-about physical humour without much hindrance.
Deftly controlling most of the complexities of the story line was Zachary Baseby, as Wadsworth. He was central to almost all the action and his stature and energy kept the action flying along at the required fast pace. While a little stilted at first, (quite forgivable, considering he was the butler) Baseby blossomed as the play went on. His extended monologue in Act 2, re-capping pretty well all of the preceding action and events, was quite masterful. He had a frantic urgency and humour, reminiscent of John Clease at his zaniest. His strong baritone voice and clear diction were critical in keeping the audience up with the twists and turns of the story line. Also, as he relaxed into the role he gave us more light and shade in delivery, which increased his effectiveness.
The six well-known characters/suspects were true to type. Will Faulds was exceptional as Mrs Peacock. His comic timing was excellent and he delivered his lines clearly and with flair. Importantly, too, he had a strong, positive response from the audience. Bianca Cook played the saucy Miss Scarlet with style and verve, showing her experience and dramatic ability. Jasmine Gosewinkel was very funny as Colonel Mustard, and in the scenes with Miss Scarlet she was specially effective. They worked well together. Jeshua Paterson was an entertainingly squeamish Mr Green, and really came in to his own towards the end of Act 2 when he made his astonishing revelations. Colleen Szeto was energetic and convincingly earnest as Professor Plum, while Chelyah Tandler was satisfyingly sultry and enigmatic as Mrs White, although occasionally, for character effect, she dropped volume a little too far.
Mickayla Weardon played the French maid, Yvette, with conviction and clarity. She made the most of her role in backing up Wadsworth and furthering the action in a number of important scenes, while sustaining her accent and character. Sara Petruzzella and Ailsa Kerr supported the action and their fellow actors well, in their various minor roles.
All of the performers maintained their characters and accents through the action and as an ensemble they were successful. At times the amplification was uneven for different performers and a number of the actors had to work hard to overcome that. Let’s hope that was an opening night glitch that can easily be fixed.
In summary, this was a successful venture for the Phoenix Variety and Music Group. They definitely deserved the wholesome, attentive and supportive response from the full house on opening night.