Peter Pan Goes Wrong
Henry Lewis, Jonathan Sayer and Henry Shields
Apollo Theatre, Shaftesbury Avenue
The boys are back in town. Mischief Theatre, which created the hilarious The Play that Goes Wrong, has acknowledged the seasonal frivolity with a fresh stage equivalent of the disaster movie.
As the title suggests, its Yuletide offering starts out as an am dram version of the play about a boy who never grows up. As it also hints, not all runs as smoothly as when the RSC or NT produce J M Barrie's ever-popular classic.
For those that do not know the mischievous story, what started as a students' wheeze subsequently conquered Edinburgh, the touring circuit and now seems like a permanent fixture at the Duchess. Pleasingly, the writing and directing team, who also performed in the early days were still doing so up west.
As visitors to the Peter Pan incarnation will realise, the triumphant trio and several of their friends (all still in character) have deserted their first baby to bed in the second both on- and off-stage, much to the delight of those trying out the new show.
Having eschewed anything like a star name first time around, the company is now supplemented by Tom Edden, feted and loved for his creation of one of (at the very least) the funniest characters to appear in any new play during the last decade, Alfie in One Man, Two Guvnors.
The formula is very much the same, as the team attempts to put on an unforgettable PP and hits the bullseye, but not in the way that they had intended.
Fun is top of the agenda from the novel audience announcement before the lights go down to the final curtain two highly disrupted hours later.
It would be unfair to reveal too many of the gags but, suffice to say, we are assured that none has been borrowed from big brother just along the road.
The emphasis is on anything that makes people laugh and it soon becomes apparent that, often, the oldest jokes both verbal and physical are as funny as anything fresher.
It does not take a genius to guess that the scenery is not as solid as one would like, the electrics have a habit of malfunctioning and acting talent was not high on the list of requirements when Peter Pan was cast. Lines are a problem, microphones are never quite silenced at the right moment and there is enough slapstick to please silent movie devotees.
The energetic cast under the direction of Adam Megiddo do a fine job, most having glorious moments but particularly old Mischief hands Dave Hearn as Max cast entirely for financial reasons and Nancy Wallinger playing multiple roles like only the best of farceuses can.
Beyond a constant stream of laughter, which diminishes a little after the interval but still pleases in the quieter moments, the main pleasure in this production is seeing the perfect comic timing, recognising the ingenuity of the creative team including set designer Simon Scullion and appreciating the remarkable energy of all concerned in what is almost literally a breathtaking evening.
Reviewer: Philip Fisher