There were two reasons I was looking forward to reviewing Peter Pan Goes Wrong. Firstly, I wanted to visit the recently (well twelve months) re-opened Alexandra Palace Theatre. And secondly, I’d never seen one of Mischief Theatre’s “Goes Wrong” productions and I thought I should – and I wasn’t disappointed on either count.
As for the theatre, built in 1875 and once holding 3000 people, it had fallen into disrepair and been used as a prop store for the BBC. Now as part of a £27 million refurbishment of the enormous Alexander Palace East Wing, it’s back as a theatre although holding around 800 rather than its original capacity. It reminded me of a much bigger Wilton’s Music Hall with the walls left unfinished and scarred by the years of neglect although a lot of work has been done on the magnificent ceiling.
As for Peter Pan Goes Wrong, it’s a high paced romp of a farce that never stops assaulting the senses with the energy of its cast of sixteen. As you enter the auditorium a group of stagehands are causing chaos with long electrical leads being stretched across the seats causing the lights to dim with bursts of static electricity. They also ask members of the audience if they’ve got a hammer with them. These are the stagehands of the Cornly Polytechnic Drama Society which is putting on an AmDram production of J M Barrie’s classic about the boy who never grew up but after the disasters of their previous low budget production of “Jack And The Bean” (sic), this time they have some money from one of the cast member’s uncles and they’re good to go.
After an introduction from Director Chris Bean, President of the CPDS and Robert Grove his Assistant (or as Grove insists, Co) Director, the curtain goes up and the action begins and never stops. Bunk-beds collapse, a large “dog” gets stuck in a dog-flap, costume changes don’t work, props fail, heads get bashed, arms get set on fire, limbs get smashed – and that’s just in the first fifteen minutes! This is the AmDram production from hell and it only gets worse as Peter flies in from Neverland – everything that can go wrong with flying an actor in from the wings does and it’s a miracle he survives – or does he? As the action moves from the Darling’s London home to Neverland there’s opportunity for more and mishaps and bodies get thumped the theatre goes black as the fuses blow, characters fall from great heights – this is high quality English farce with pratfalls galore and top draw slapstick. The pace slows a little in the second act as some of the comedy becomes a bit repetitive but the finale as the set revolves and the actors run and fall from a out of control pirate ship to the Darling’s house to Neverland is hilarious and exhausting for cast and audience alike. I hope each cast member gets an allowance for bandages, ice packs and painkillers – they must need them after every performance.
At times there’s a deliberate touch of pantomime about the show with lots of “it’s behind you” type responses from the audience and shouted out comments which add to the mayhem and the madness. It’s an amazing success story for Mischief Theatre who started with The Play That Goes Wrong in 2012 which was a sensation in the West End and took Broadway by storm. This was followed by A Comedy About A Bank Robbery, Groan Ups and Magic Goes Wrong – and now there’s even going to be a BBC TV series The Goes Wrong Show.
Peter Pan Goes Wrong is terrific, unashamed, pure entertainment. Adam Meggido directs the superb cast with energy and enthusiasm – it would be unfair to single any of them out as they’re all superb, some playing numerous parts almost simultaneously. They’re bashed, battered and bruised and in the English tradition of farce and pantomime, we laugh uproariously at their misfortune.
Peter Pan Goes Wrong is on at the wonderfully gothic Alexandra Palace Theatre until January 5th before going back on tour around the country until next February. If you want to laugh until you worry about your ribs and your bladder, don’t miss it.
Review by Alan Fitter
Mischief Theatre, the multi award-winning theatre company responsible for the worldwide smash hit The Play That Goes Wrong, brings its other comedy disaster Peter Pan Goes Wrong back to London this Christmas, playing at Alexanda Palace Theatre from 13th December 2019 to 5th January 2020, as part of a UK Tour.
Co-written by Mischief Theatre company members Henry Lewis, Jonathan Sayer and Henry Shields, Peter Pan Goes Wrong is a highly physical comedy packed with finely-tuned farce and Buster Keaton inspired slapstick, delivered with split-second timing and ambitious daring. The play sees the ‘Cornley Polytechnic Drama Society’ back on stage battling technical hitches, flying mishaps and cast disputes as they attempt to present J.M Barrie’s much-loved tale. But will they ever make it to Neverland?
Nominated for an Olivier Award for ‘Best New Comedy’ in 2016, Peter Pan Goes Wrong has enjoyed two West End seasons, a tour of Australia and New Zealand and a UK tour. A one-hour version of the show was broadcast on primetime BBC One in December 2016, starring David Suchet as the guest narrator and watched by an audience of over six million worldwide.
The 2019/20 cast for Peter Pan Goes Wrong includes: Romayne Andrews (Dennis), Tom Babbage (Max), Georgia Bradley (Lucy), Connor Crawford (Chris), Katy Daghorn (Sandra), Phoebe Ellabani (Annie), Ciaran Kellgren (Jonathan), Ethan Moorhouse (Trevor), Oliver Senton (Robert), and Patrick Warner (Francis), with understudies Eboni Dixon, Christian James, Soroosh Lavasani and Ava Pickett.
Directed by Adam Meggido, with set designs by Simon Scullion, costumes by Roberto Surace, lighting by Matt Haskins, sound by Ella Wahlstrom, co-composed by Richard Baker and Rob Falconer, Associate Director Fred Gray. Peter Pan Goes Wrong is produced by Kenny Wax Ltd and Stage Presence Ltd. A donation from every ticket sold is given to Great Ormond Street Hospital.
PETER PAN GOES WRONG
Alexandra Palace Theatre
Alexandra Palace Way, London N22 7AY
Fri 13 Dec 2019 – Sun 5 Jan 2020