CentralComedyDramaFeaturedReview

Peter Pan Goes Wrong – The Alexandra, Birmingham

Reviewer: James Garrington

Writers: Henry Lewis, Jonathan Sayer and Henry Shields

Director: Adam Meggido

Mischief Theatre is back, taking us to Cornley for the Polytechnic Drama Society’s production of the J.M Barrie classic Peter Pan – and it’s as joyous as ever.

Many of us have been there at some point – going to see a production where nothing seems to go right, to the point where the entire show descends into complete mayhem, creating an increasing amount of chaos and embarrassment for the audience. Mischief Theatre has taken the concept and developed it to a fine art with their series of plays, the best known of which is probably The Play That Goes Wrong – and the good news is that instead of having to sit politely through it before making a swift exit, here we have not only permission but encouragement to laugh at the mayhem.

Members of the audience are drawn in right from the start, as we find ushers who don’t know where the seats are, cast members in full costume trying to interfere with the process, a power cable being passed over heads in an attempt to get the lights to work. You’re not part of an audience watching Mischief Theatre perform Peter Pan Goes Wrong, you’re watching the Drama Society perform their version of Peter Pan. Even the show programme has a number of pages that are Cornley Peter Pan rather than Mischief Theatre, and each page is a thing of beauty.

Eventually, everyone is seated, the lights are on – after a fashion – and the show can start. That’s when the chaos really starts. Although as we are reminded Peter Pan is not a pantomime (“oh yes it is!”), audience participation is very definitely allowed. On it goes, showing us everything you might expect to find in a badly directed and under-rehearsed production. Cues are missed, lighting doesn’t work as it should, scenery wobbles and has been badly designed – but the show, as they say, must go on, as the Cornley cast members try their best to get through to the end – though their attempts to make things better often have just the opposite effect.

It’s all wonderful chaotic fun. The extremely clever script by Henry Lewis, Jonathan Sayer and Henry Shields manages to reflect almost every character and situation you could expect to find. We have the actor who has to be included otherwise the funding would be withdrawn, another who can’t remember any of his lines, the unwilling child being thrust into the spotlight by their pushy family, and backstage love triangles. They’re all here and more, their characters beautifully drawn by the writing team.

Peter Pan Goes Wrong is performed by an ensemble cast of 10 who all work extremely hard in what is a very physical production which needs a lot of careful timing and rehearsal to make it work without any of the portrayed mishaps becoming real ones. There are some memorable performances too – Jean-Luke Worrell is a deliciously happy Francis, hoping that his infectious smile can carry him through the mishaps until he bursts into song, much to the delight of the audience. Jack Michael Stacy is an opinionated director Chris, hindered as much as assisted by Matthew Howell’s Robert, who has an over-inflated view of his own abilities. Clare Noy is a suitably harassed and overworked Annie who can’t quite manage her quick changes, and Rosemarie Akwafo makes a perfect shy Lucy. It’s very much a team effort though, and every one of the cast and crew does their bit towards making the production what it is.

We all take secret delight in seeing unplanned mishaps on stage, and here we not only get to see them we are encouraged to laugh at them and add our own contributions to the mayhem too.

It’s great fun, and not to be missed if you enjoy an unchallenging and very funny outing to the theatre.

Runs until 23 March 2024 and on tour

The Reviews Hub Score

A feast of comic mayhem

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The Central team is under the editorship of Selwyn Knight. The Reviews Hub was set up in 2007. Our mission is to provide the most in-depth, nationwide arts coverage online.

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