Writers: Henry Lewis, Jonathan Sayer, Henry Shields
Director: Adam Meggido
Reviewer: James Garrington
Many of us have, at some time or another, seen a production that’s so bad that it makes us want to laugh at it. Instead we sit there and cringe with embarrassment, then applaud politely before making a swift escape at the end. Well, Peter Pan Goes Wrong is all of those productions added together into one joyous mix; and this time we’re allowed to laugh at it.
Mischief Theatre have come up with a show very much in the style of their previous offering The Play That Goes Wrong, as the cast of Cornley Polytechnic Drama Society attempt to put on their production of Peter Pan. The tone is set right from the start, when the audience enter to find stage crew walking around purposefully about some unspecified task, and ushers who try to show us to our seats despite apparently not knowing where those seats are. Then the curtain goes up on Peter Pan and the fun really begins. We see all of the typical elements of a bad production – missed cues, sound and lighting problems, wobbly scenery that doesn’t work properly. Mishap piles upon mishap, but the show, as they say, must go on, and that is what everyone ensures happens – despite the chaos, and with increasingly comic results as they attempt in vain to cover up the problems and plough on to the end.
Writers Henry Lewis, Jonathan Sayer and Henry Shields have come up with an extremely clever script that manages to find almost every character and situation that you might come across – the diva, the actor who is no good but has to be included for some reason, the parent thrusting their child into the limelight, the backstage romantic liaison. The set, designed by Simon Scullion, fits the plot brilliantly – designer and writer must have spent a lot of time honing script and set design to make them work so well together. The overall effect is enhanced by the lighting, at times deliberately bad, designed by Matt Haskins.
Peter Pan Goes Wrong is performed by an ensemble cast of ten who all work extremely hard to make this production what it is. This is a very physical production, in an almost slapstick sort of way, which needs a lot of careful timing and rehearsal to make it work without any of the portrayed mishaps and becoming real ones. There are many memorable performances here too; Leonie Hill’s balletic overacting as Wendy, and Naomi Sheldon, whose overworked character Annie takes on multiple rôles that keep the humour going right from the start. Laurence Pears desperately tries to keep everything on track as director Chris Bean, assisted – or hindered – by co-director Robert Grove (Cornelius Booth) who also excels as a grizzly, bearded young boy.
There is a fine line to be trodden to make a send-up funny without it becoming an embarrassment itself, and Mischief Theatre have hit the mark once again. We all take a secret delight in seeing things go wrong on stage, and here we have an opportunity to see a huge number in one evening. It’s a laugh a minute from start to finish, and above all great fun.
Photo: Alastair Muir | Runs until 1st February