Peter Pan Goes Wrong
Henry Lewis, Jonathan Sayer and Henry Shields; original music by Rob Falconer and Richard Baker
Kenny Wax Ltd and Stage Presence Ltd by arrangement with Mischief Worldwide Ltd
Lyric Theatre, Shaftesbury Avenue
In the several years since I last saw it, I had forgotten just how good Peter Pan Goes Wrong is.
Combining a Titus Andronicus level of violence with fine comedy and classic slapstick, this is festive farce at its best.
The play’s super-tight collapsing play-within-a-play structure is crammed with visual gags and stunts and the writing is, of course, very funny, balancing absurdity, character-driven comedy and recurring gags that never outstay their welcome.
To pull off this much ridiculousness requires split-second timing and a mountain of disciplined physicality, which director Adam Meggido’s (associate director Fred Gray) cast bring on stage by the bucket-load.
The brio is contagious, with the audience delighting in goading Captain Hook with ‘he’s behind you’s’, declaring belief in fairies and generally whooping itself hoarse.
Those familiar with the ‘Goes Wrong’ canon of work on stage or television will recognise the signature variety of comedic devices that are generously packed in to the show from inappropriately substituted props to costume malfunctions and from missed lighting cues to double entendres.
Some of the faces are also recognisable. Charlie Russell is a hoot as the hip-grinding Sandra / Wendy, who tries to keep the show going on against the odds, and Chris Leask is a wonderfully grouchy Trevor, the sparks who finds himself understudying Peter.
Harry Kershaw plays Hook / Darling / Peter Pan director Chris Bean with just the right amount of disintegrating stoicism to have everyone in stitches, but it is another Peter Pan Goes Wrong original, Nancy Zamit, who steals the show as the multi-tasking Annie who shines as Tinker Bell.
That said, Jean-Luke Worrell’s Narrator is an undisputed master of fairy dust and chairs with a mind of their own. To be fair, Simon Scullion and team’s revolving set is also a star of the show with a technical design that succeeds brilliantly at being terrible, raising the roof as if falls.
Peter Pan Goes Wrong is an embarrassment of comedy riches that proves you can't have too much of a good thing. Three cheers for the Cornley Drama Society’s Peter Pan, and welcome back.
Nancy Zamit plays Annie until 17 December and 11 to 14 January. From 19 December to 10 January, Jamie Birkett, from the current UK touring cast, plays Annie.
Reviewer: Sandra Giorgetti