Interview: Ellie Leach, Jason Durr and Mark Bell | Cluedo 2 – the next chapter.

Ellie Leach, Jason Durr and the show’s director, Mark Bell

Cluedo 2 – The Next Chapter

Theatre Royal Brighton: Tickets

For Strictly Come Dancing champion and former Coronation Street actress Ellie Leach and ex Heartbeat and Casualty actor Jason Durr, the chance to play Miss Scarlett and Colonel Mustard in Cluedo 2 – The Next Chapter were roles they both simply couldn’t turn down. 

The two stars are starring in a major new nationwide UK stage tour which marks the world premiere of this new play, based on the classic Hasbro boardgame and starts at the end of February 2024. Written by BAFTA Award winning writers Laurence Marks and Maurice Gran (who wrote TV hits including Birds of a Feather and the stage hit Dreamboats and Petticoats) and directed by the award winning Mark Bell, the Cluedo 2 tour will kick off at Richmond Theatre on 29th February and then visit more than 20 venues around the country. 

Both actors admit they can’t wait to go on tour. It’s Ellie’s first ever theatre role after she shot to fame playing Faye Windass for 12 years in Coronation Street and then went on to win last year’s Strictly Come Dancing. Meanwhile Jason, who has starred in many TV roles and until recently as Nurse David Hide in Casualty, admits he has long harboured an ambition to return to his theatre roots. 

“This is my first stage play and I am very excited to be playing Miss Scarlett, “ says Ellie ahead of her stage debut. “It is nerve-wracking as it’s something completely different to TV but I really want to push myself out of my comfort zone. A year ago, I would never have expected Strictly, then the Strictly arena tour and now Cluedo 2 happen. I am so grateful as Miss Scarlett is such an iconic character to play.”

Adds Jason: “I have done an enormous amount of television but there is nothing quite like performing in front of a live audience and making people laugh. I am looking forward to going back to my roots, acting on stage, and getting my funny bones going again in the form of this rip-roaring comedy. When I read the scripts for the first time, I was in a quiet coach on a train and I started hooting with laughter! A lady told me to be quiet but I couldn’t help but laugh throughout. It’s going to be phenomenal to bring comedy and a classic whodunnit to the stage where the audience get to be the detective.” 

As the actors go on to explain, both their roles have been cleverly reinvented to fit in with the new setting of the play in the rock and roll 1960s – something they are both hugely excited by. “At first, Miss Scarlet seems like butter won’t melt,” reveals Ellie. “She is an interior designer and she seems very unassuming. But as the play develops, well….. people may not be quite what they seem. Cluedo is, afterall, a thriller and murder mystery game!”

Like Miss Scarlett, Colonel Mustard is also hiding secrets, Jason then explains. “We are going to be reinventing the narrative,” says the actor. “Rick Black is a rock star in the play and Mustard is his manager. “Like Elvis had the Colonel, this chap has Mustard! He thinks he knows what he is doing but he doesn’t really.” 

The icing on the cake, admit Ellie and Jason, is the chance to work alongside the show’s critically acclaimed director Mark Bell, who is also the director behind the global hit, The Play That Goes Wrong. Enthuses Jason: “Mark is the past master at mishap and mayhem and he has his finger on the pulse. This is the perfect tonic we need right now in the world we are living in.” 

Smiling, Mark insists it’s the play’s writers, Laurence Marks and Maurice Gran, who should win all the praise. “I am a minor Viscount compared to their Highnesses,” he jokes before adding: “They are royalty and as soon as I met them, we hit it off. It’s a privilege to be working with them and this great new cast. It’s a new story with new twists and what I love is the fact Cluedo is such an important part of our culture.” 

Indeed, for both the new stars of the play and Mark, the Cluedo boardgame represents such an iconic part of British heritage. It’s one of the reasons, says Mark, why the first Cluedo play proved to be such a big hit in its stage tour in 2022. “I played Cluedo as a child and I think it’s why we had such a fantastic audience response with the first Cluedo stage play,” Mark continues. “People enjoy seeing these characters come to life.” 

 “This isn’t the first time I’ve played Colonel Mustard,” jokes Jason. “I used to play him and the game as a kid. I grew up in Hong Kong and the one game we loved was Cluedo. I’ve introduced it to my children now too.” 

Ellie says she loves how unique the characters are. “Everyone can define who all the characters are,” she continues. “They are very distinctive.”

Determined to throw everything into the new production, all three are working hard behind the scenes to make sure it’s another huge success. Jason says he hopes to be sure to steady his stage nerves whilst Ellie is drawing from her experience performing in front of thousands on her recent Strictly arena UK tour. “All the cast have welcomed me with such open arms,” she says. “Thousands came to watch the Strictly tour and it did give me a sense of what it is like to perform in front of a live audience. It’s going to be also amazing to take on this new experience and do something different to TV, which is practically at the other end of the acting scale. Television is very naturalistic and on stage, everything happens a thousand times bigger. But that’s what is so exciting.”

Meanwhile, one of Mark’s goals is to focus on making sure the actors feel relaxed in their verbal and physical delivery of comedic moments ahead of the tour. And so now, with rehearsals underway, he reveals he’s already got a few tricks up his sleeve to make sure the actors don’t feel afraid being silly. “I like to start off each day of rehearsals with a silly game to warm up,” he says. “Putting on a comedy is far harder than a straight play because the comic timings have to look effortless. 

 “The jokes won’t work otherwise. For me, I never get bored of telling stories and structuring jokes so you get laughter. Shared laughter is so important and so one of my favourite improvisations with the actors is to run a pretend job interview. Only it gets sillier and sillier and by the end, they might be tap dancing whilst pretending to be a chicken!” 

For all three, touring around the UK can be tough but each are making sure to balance family life and other work commitments. With other projects also on the go, Mark explains he tries to visit different cities hosting the play every fortnight whilst both Ellie and Jason reveal they are planning to bring their families along to watch. “It’s never great leaving home but you make it work,” admits Jason. “My wife and children will definitely be coming to watch. It will be a chance for us to have a giggle. I think I look rather fetching in yellow!” 

Adds Ellie: “My family can’t wait to come and watch me in this show. Obviously after going on tour with Strictly, I have now had experience of living out of a suitcase and what is great about this show is I am going to be going back to acting again.  I was known for many years as Faye Windass and as amazing as that was, it was then nice for people to find out more about me and my personality on Strictly. Now it’s going to be great to transform myself into a new character. I love how Cluedo 2 is perfect for everyone in the family and it is lovely how, thanks partly now to The Traitors too, people really enjoy murder mysteries!

“When I spoke to Mark about how the play felt a bit like The Traitors, he agreed. He said ‘yes, everyone is trying to suss everyone out!’ I can’t wait for everyone to come and watch it.”

What’s particularly exciting for both stars is that 2024 marks a very special landmark for the famous Hasbro boardgame – its 75th birthday.  “To be part of the 75th birthday celebrations is going to be exciting,” admits Jason. “I really hope we will make the audience laugh every time as we bring to life, live action versions of Cluedo’s famous characters on stage.” 

As for what the audience can expect when they watch the new stage version, Mark smiles as he teases: “Cluedo 2 is a really great whodunnit. It’s fast paced, high energy with lots of verbal and visual jokes. This is one for all the family – everyone is going to come out smiling!” 

By Christine Smith 

Cluedo 2 will be playing at the Theatre Royal Brighton 19th March – 23rd March 2024