Writers: Henry Lewis, Jonathan Sayer, Henry Shields
Director: Addam Meggido
Reviewer: Bill Avenell
The question arises, is it wise to go and see a second production so soon after having enjoyed a first by the same company and, moreover, could Cornley Polytechnic Dramatic Society (sorry I mean Mischief Theatre of course) sustain the action and disaster packed riot of The Murder at Haversham Manor.
Well, if you have seen The Play that Goes Wrong don’t be concerned about being disappointed with ‘Peter Pan’. It isn’t quite as good as the original but it isn’t far off and there is a wealth of new material that writers Henry Lewis, Jonathan Sayer and Henry Shields have managed to extract from ‘am dram sham’ to add to some of the tried and tested ideas from their last effort. If, on the other hand, you are new to Cornley’s dramatic offerings then you are in for a treat if spoof humour is your thing especially with Mischief’s very clever and slightly macabre approach.
The play is exactly what it says on the tin, a production of Peter Pan presented by the mythical Cornley Polytechnic Dramatic Society with all the opportunities for chaos that misplaced props, unexpected entrances, sound and lighting glitches, scenery malfunction and cast relationships provide but through all of which the heroic cast must ensure that the play goes on. It verges on the farce at times but it is clever and subtle. Lewis, Sayer and Shields have a wonderful knack of inventing a potential problem, parking it in the back ground until the audience (and indeed seemingly the players) have forgotten it and then bringing it out with the glorious sudden realisation of what it is going to lead to. But there are also some big ideas. In particular with the help throughout of some inventive lighting work from Matt Haskins an inspired set from Simon Scullion and the well thought out costumes of Roberto Surace the piece builds to the brilliant ‘transformation’ carousel.
The Cornley players are as good as ever. Not a weak link among them and a huge amount of business to be choreographed adeptly by director Adam Meggido. Very cleverly done so that the production deliberately does not have the slickness of a polished farce but maintains the sense of shambles while still moving at pace. The girls in particular are strong. Leonie Hill overacts as only Sandra Wilkinson can and Naomi Seldon maintains Annie Twilloil’s energy in her multitude of rôles and costume changes. Laurence Pears plays director Chris Bean with ever increasing frustration, Cornelius Booth is excellent as a geriatric boy and then of course there is the under-rated Max superbly understated by Matt Cavendish.
It really is a gem and has the feel good factor, ideal for this time of year, of repeatedly jumping back into your mind with an ‘oh that was funny too’ moment. Go and see it but please don’t blame the Yvonne Arnaud for the interval or the stage hands and, whatever you do, don’t buy your ice cream from the seller at the front of the Stalls!
Peter Pan Goes Wrong runs at the Yvonne Arnaud in Guildford until Saturday 29th November.