Writers: Henry Lewis, Jonathan Sayer, Henry Shields
Director: Adam Meggido
Reviewer: Dan English
Have you ever been to an am-dram sham? A play that has been so desperately bad, that you have had to try and shield your laughter throughout, so not to offend the actors? The beauty of Mischief Theatre’s Peter Pan Goes Wrong then, is that you can put down your shield.
Following on from their hugely successful The Play That Goes Wrong, Mischief Theatre, under the guise of the fictional Cornley Polytechnic Dramatic Society, stumble, fumble, and explode through J. M. Barrie’s Peter Pan in the form of a pantomime, or as they insist, a Christmas vignette.
We do get a performance of Peter Pan, conjured magnificently by the pens of Henry Lewis, Jonathan Sayer and Henry Shields, tying in the famous story with the farcical nature unique to the Cornley team, even if Hook’s (Laurence Pears) hook gets unhooked. It is a masterclass in writing, with the play full of perfect executions of untimed and explosive entrances, flying props and, perhaps best of all, a whirling ‘transformation’ carousel. Simon Scullion’s set design links flawlessly with the rapid pace this piece requires allowing swift changes, with the lighting designs of Matt Haskins and costume designs of Roberto Surace also commendable.
As the audience take their seats for the performance, a play within a play, it becomes clear that all is not going according to plan for the blundering company, stomping through incoming theatregoers rushing to make last minute adjustments.
It is no surprise that these adjustments continue when the curtains eventually rise, and that due to ‘cast unavailability’, the rôle of young Michael Darling, a mere boy, is to be played by the bearded Robert Grove (Cornelius Booth). Booth is a delight in his rôle as Grove, with his magnificent beard proving a good gag, yet fierce stumbling block, for his portrayal of young Michael. He shines again later, as Hook’s shipmate Starkey, whose incoherent delivery of his pirate lines reminiscent of characters we have all seen in am-dram shows.
Wendy Darling is performed by the sassy Sandra Wilkinson (Leonie Hill). Hill’s Wilkinson is the stereotypical am-dram female protagonist, keen to show off all of her abilities, all at the same time, with some tickling consequences. Her dance routines are hilariously out of style, of course, with the rest of the production, with her love square involving Max Bennett (Matt Cavendish), Annie Twilloil (Naomi Sheldon) and Jonathan Harris (Alex Bartram) a driving force in the production’s plot.
From stuttering ‘child actors’ (Rosie Abraham) to hapless stage hands (Chris Leask), the most impressive aspect of this performance is the acting ability of the entire ensemble. Peter Pan Goes Wrong requires a great deal of energy and concentration in order to execute the humour perfectly, and in this respect, the cast certainly does not walk the plank. The show’s attention to detail is breathtaking, as well as the writers’ splendid ability to plant the seed of a joke minutes before delivering it, only increasing the laughter.
Despite the slick nature of Peter Pan Goes Wrong, the sound elements were mixed. There were original songs and a good score attached to the production, from Ella Wahlstrom, yet at times these were laboured, with the recorded audio that tied much of the plot together becoming somewhat tiresome and repetitive in the second half, meaning it loses its impact.
On the whole, this is a wonderful piece of humour that even the hardest audience member would struggle not to chuckle at. If anything, it will cast your memory back to that disastrous show you saw in a church hall, and that’ll make you laugh twice as hard. Mischief Theatre has a strong sequel in Peter Pan Goes Wrong, so catch it while you can.
Runs until 17th January