Peter Pan Goes Wron(g) delivers exactly the kind of night you expect from its title. As the second follow up to the hugely successful The Play That Goes Wrong, still currently in its debut West End run and winner of the What’s On Stage? ‘Best New Comedy’ award, there’s certainly a reputation to live up to. It doesn’t disappoint.
The premise is simple in that the plot of the play follows very closely the story that you’ll likely already know, allowing the humour of the mistakes that follow to happen freely. The base material means there’s much fun to be had subverting the usual Peter Pan lines and scenes, with sly references thrown in almost as asides adding to the already dense script. The laughs from the audience certainly come thickest and fastest when the show takes a rapid-fire approach to the jokes. The mistakes that happen become so exponentially drastic that even given the title of the show you start to doubt whether something really was intended, which is a real credit to the production team.
The performance begins long before the show – it seems a contradiction – but the cast take the format to a new level. It is thoroughly entertaining to see the cast seemingly shout and bicker in and around the auditorium whilst the audience are being seated. This theme follows throughout with hilarious moments everywhere, from scenery mishaps to a Wendy with a fondness for break dancing. The ‘going wrong’ very quickly takes a rapid move up from the expected prop mistakes and the like, to full on medical emergencies. It never feels like a farce and is all in good taste.
This isn’t simply a mere retelling of Peter Pan with the mistakes thrown in. You’re treated to what can only be described as a ‘meta’ play-within-a-play, getting to know the characters playing the Peter Pan roles, including some of the hilarious backstory to their relationships and the various feuds they have with each other. It’s very well managed, to the extent that the programme gives full bios on the made-up ‘performers’ that play the parts as well as the actors themselves, to keep up the illusion.
A majority of the humour does come from slapstick-esque comedy, but this isn’t at the expense of clever writing. Running gags, self-referential comments and actors that aren’t afraid to improvise for laughs keep the humour varied. It’s not just a show for children as might be assumed, as some of the laughs are specifically aimed at the adults without ruining the family-orientated vibe. The best moments come from the parts which satirise plays and musicals themselves, with characters struggling to play multiple roles and the ‘stage crew’ getting caught up in the action.
The production values are stunning. This being a comedy play doesn’t detract from the enormous, interactive set (which takes a fair battering throughout). I was astounded by the variety we’re given. At no point does it feel like a budget fringe production, with the cast making great use of the various flying scenes to add to the physical comedy. It’s also worth mentioning that there is a stand-out scene involving a luminescent mermaid and crew member brandishing a whale – but to say any more would be to spoil the pay-off.
The cast must also be commended on their great physicality, unafraid to throw themselves – usually literally – into the joke. Special mention to one of the lead males Laurence Pears (Hook, Mr Darling) whose energy throughout and bantering with the audience were a joy to behold, giving a comedic performance reminiscent of John Cleese (meant as a compliment of the highest order). At no point do any of the actors take themselves too seriously, letting themselves corpse and interact with the audience. It was very refreshing and displayed great, diverse talent on their behalf.
Writers Henry Lewis, Jonathan Sayer and Henry Shields certainly have a winning formula with the ‘…Goes Wrong’ franchise, and I’m sure this show’s nationwide tour (and hopefully eventual West End run) will enjoy similar success to their other productions before it. Anyone worried that the concept is likely to simply be a rehash of the same gags need not worry – the comedy here is brand new. As long as you’re comfortable with some occasionally repetitive theatrical silliness in amongst the wordplay, you’re guaranteed a show to deliver belly-laughs throughout.
Review By Ash Benzaiten
Peter Pan Goes Wrong
Following its smash hit success with the The Play That Goes Wrong which has now returned to the West End, Mischief Theatre Company (Winners of the 2014 Whatsonstage ‘Best New Comedy’ Award) bring their hilarious new spin on a family favourite to the stage.
The Cornley Polytechnic Drama Society set out to present J.M. Barrie’s classic tale of Peter Pan, but as the title suggests, everything that can go wrong…does, as the accident prone thesps embark on a thrilling adventure to Neverland, with hilariously disastrous results.
Trailer for Peter Pan Goes Wrong
Cast: Laurence Pears, Cornelius Booth, Matt Cavendish, Leonie Hill, James Marlowe, Chris Leask, Harry Kershaw, Naomi Sheldon, Alex Bartram, Rosie Abraham, Fred Gray, Laura Kirman
Directed By: Adam Meggido, Produced By: Kenny Wax
A Production From: Kenny Wax Ltd, Stage Presence Ltd and Mischief Theatre Ltd
Wednesday 11th February 2015