Writers: Henry Lewis, Jonathan Sayer and Henry Shields
Director: Adam Meggido
There’s no denying that Mischief Theatre is a phenomenon. Born out of a group of LAMDA graduates looking to create their own improvised productions, the breakthrough production was The Play That Goes Wrong, with a hapless amateur company attempting to put on an Agatha Christie-style thriller despite anything and everything going, well, wrong.
The success of that show burgeoned a whole franchise, with the original now one of three Mischief West End productions (joined by The Comedy About a Bank Robbery, and the current run of three new productions at the Vaudeville Theatre). But of all their works, Peter Pan Goes Wrong is quite possibly their zenith, partly because the framing production of JM Barrie’s play for children is so well-known.
That familiarity with the original source material allows the Mischief troupe – in the guise of the Cornley Polytechnic Drama Society – to concentrate on the on-stage mayhem. The Darling children each have their own quirks; Wendy (Katy Daghorn) delivers every line as if she’s posing for an Instagram story version of herself; Romayne Andrews’s John is having his lines relayed to him by radio link; and Tom Babbage’s Michael, while endearing, has only been cast because his uncle funded the building of the set.
The jokes start to come thick and fast from the moment the curtain rises up on the children’s nursery. To elaborate in too much detail would be to deny new audiences the thrill of watching the chaos unravel for themselves; repeated viewings do not lessen the comedy, but do highlight just how carefully executed the ever-escalating chaos is.
As the action progresses to Neverland, the struggling players and their hapless stage managers do their best to stick to Barrie’s structure, cast incapacity and ineptitude notwithstanding. Oliver Senton as the over-ambitious assistant director (also Nana, Peter’s Shadow and the pirate Starkey) dominates in ways that his character would love were it not for the multiple catastrophes in which he is directly involved.
The hilarity continues as the play’s putative director, played by Connor Crawford (also Dublin as Mr Darling and Captain Hook), is forced to despair that “this is not a pantomime”. Oh yes it very much is, in the best sense – it may not be a cheesy fairytale-style rendition of Barrie’s tale with traditional Panto elements shoehorned in, but it is a family romp (with a bit of sauciness for the not-so-grown-ups to enjoy) that truly befits the season.
The one quibble is that this touring production, like all productions of Peter Pan Goes Wrong, relies on a very specific size of set. In the enormous confines of the Alexandra Palace’s newly reopened theatre, Mischief’s work seems unfairly diminished in stature. As the tour continues into 2020, this consummate farce will find venues of a more suitable size with which to entertain kids of all ages.
Continues until 5 January 2020, then touring | Image: Contributed