Classic characters of ‘Cluedo’ brought to life in historic hotel takeover


The classic board game ‘Cluedo’ has been brought to life in its home city, with live actors replacing the familiar suspect figurines and Birmingham’s historic Macdonald Burlington Hotel doubling as Tudor Mansion.

‘Cluedo’ took place between Thursday 27 April and Saturday 29 April, and was devised by final year Stage Management students from Birmingham Conservatoire, part of Birmingham City University.

Birmingham Conservatoire

Birmingham City University

‘Cluedo’ was invented in the Birmingham suburb of Kings Heath between 1943-45 and launched by Waddingtons in 1949. The object of the game is to determine who murdered the game's victim, Dr Black.

The live action ‘Cluedo’ was an immersive murder mystery event in which participants must find out who killed Dr Black, by helping Detective Diggory Brown question suspects and search for clues.

The 40-minute long event took place in the Macdonald Burlington Hotel where all suspects have been kept for interrogation.

Stage Management

As part of the Stage Management course, the students were tasked with setting up their own immersive theatre company and finding a historic location in Birmingham that they could transform to highlight its history.Operating as Tagline, the students took inspiration from ‘Cluedo’ and its Birmingham origins at a time when escape rooms are becoming more and more popular.

Anthony Pratt was a musician and would frequent mystery parties in the 1950s in hotels and manor houses. It was therefore fitting that the students selected the Macdonald Burlington Hotel, with its period features offering the perfect setting to recreate a 1950s-set immersive event that echoes the period when Anthony Pratt was working in hotels.

Jacqui Findlay, Stage Management Course Director and Head of Production, Birmingham Conservatoire, said:

“As part of the Stage Management final year, students have to create a theatrical event based on a venue’s historical background. Working as a group they are responsible for all elements of the event from venue liaison and logistics to creative content.

“Detective Diggory Brown guides the guests through the spaces leaving them to spot the clues and hopefully solve the murder. It's a great combination of old fashioned board games and the current escape room trend. I’m so proud of all the students, they have worked exceptionally hard and it shows just how talented they all are!”

Macdonald Burlington Hotel

Over 140 years old, the Macdonald Burlington Hotel has welcomed Beatle George Harrison and comedy film legends Laurel and Hardy in the past. It was also where Enoch Powell delivered his infamous ‘Rivers of Blood’ speech in 1968.

James Bee, General Manager at the Macdonald Burlington said:

“The Macdonald Burlington has always been an iconic location in Birmingham so we are pleased to be a key part of the student’s activities. The event is great fun and the staff have loved seeing the actors bring the game to life. I urge people to come and take part in a real life ‘Cluedo’ game.”

Formerly known as the Midland Hotel, the property also serves ‘Birmingham spring water’ from its own source – a borehole deep beneath the hotel where tunnels, once used to move mail between Birmingham New Street railway station and the Colmore Row business district, have survived.

Undergraduate project

Sophie Spillane is the Co-Production Manager for ‘Cluedo’. She said:

“As third year Stage Management students, we have gained a variety of skills by working in multiple roles within a production department. We have created ‘Cluedo’ for our final year project and, after being given a brief by the University, we independently created the company Tagline and are very proud to perform our first show with the support of our tutors and fellow students. This project has given us great insight into the industry and has given us a taste of what life will be like after University.

“In our version of ‘Cluedo’, each session can accommodate up to 15 people, so it would make a perfect activity for family and friends over the Bank Holiday. Having said that, we’re almost sold out, so I’d encourage budding sleuths to get their tickets soon to avoid disappointment.”

‘Cluedo’ was run in conjunction with Philip Holyman and Gareth Nicholls, Co-Directors of Walsall-based theatre company Little Earthquake and Visiting Lecturers at Birmingham Conservatoire.

Last year, Little Earthquake worked with Birmingham Conservatoire postgraduate student Stuart Ash, who performed their Black Country translation of ‘Hamlet’, aptly known as ‘Yamlet’ – incorporating the Black Country word ‘yam’, meaning ‘you are’.

Stuart Ash also performed as Reverend Green in ‘Cluedo’, working alongside Chris Rushmere-York as Diggory Brown the Detective. Stage Management students played the rest of the characters.

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