Peter Pan Goes Wrong

Henry Lewis, Jonathan Sayer and Henry Shields
Mischief Theatre
Theatre Royal Bath

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Clark Devlin as Dennis, Jack Michael Stacey as Chris, Jean-Luke Worrell as Francis, Ciara Morris as Sandra, Theo Toksvig-Stewart as Max and Matthew Howell as Robert in Peter Pan Goes Wrong Credit: Pamela Raith
Ciara Morris as Sandra and Matthew Howell as Robert in Peter Pan Goes Wrong Credit: Pamela Raith
Theo Toksvig-Stewart as Max, Ciara Morris as Sandra, Clark Devlin as Dennis and Matthew Howell as Robert in Peter Pan Goes Wrong Credit: Pamela Raith

The Mischief Theatre train continues to gather pace. Its unyielding, relentless churning—not in a negative sense, by the way—is admirable. From a plethora of stage plays, of which a couple have had a live recording release on BBC (including this very one) to a successful TV show and podcast. Not to mention its success over the pond on Broadway.

It could be argued that Peter Pan Goes Wrong is a sequel—a rarity on stage. When it premièred at the Pleasance Theatre towards the back end of 2013, it featured the same original cast from The Play That Goes Wrong in their same roles. Of course, being a comedy outfit, this is logistically a lot more straightforward to pull off. But will Cluedo 2, which will also play at Theatre Royal Bath next year, feature the exact same cast in the very same roles? Unlikely.

So, Cornley Polytechnic Drama Society is tasked with putting on yet another show—surely it cannot go as spectacularly bad as the last production? Well, silliness is the aim, silliness is their game. Mischief Theatre this time uses J M Barrie’s classic tale of Peter Pan and throws it through its trademarked, farcical ringer. The result? It’s not always purposely seamless, and some skits don’t quite get the reaction the performers are after, but enough land to make this a worthy trip.

Peter Pan Goes Wrong is franchise theatre. Mischief formulated a slam-dunk of a show in The Play That Goes Wrong with its absurd, pantomime-like gaffs and break-the-fourth-wall, tongue-in-cheek humour. The comedy theatre troupe now has a strong catalogue of worldwide hits. Their style has spilt into a new genre, or perhaps era, of farcical comedy. That’s quite the contribution to the theatre landscape. It is noticeable while looking through the cast and company’s past credits how many have performed another Mischief offering or something unerringly like their brand. And it takes a certain stamina to keep up with this lot.

Look for a better showing and you’ll struggle. Every cast member is short of breath by the time bows get underway and the backstage crew get their well-deserved applause, too. So much can go awry with the slightest mishap, and, due to the show’s nature, potentially it often does but escapes the audience’s eyes. But it takes a certain trusty and well-rehearsed hand to constantly deliver the gags so flawlessly.

Highlights include Francis's (Jean-Luc Worrell) athletic—and sultry—rendition of Sweet Charity’s "Hey Big Spender" and the chaotic, revolving-set skit in the second half—both worthy of admission alone.

Audiences lap it up every tour and West End show. Mischief sells itself on silly—and distributes bucketloads of just that. Peter Pan Goes Wrong is a farcical romp. To some it might not be their cup of tea, but if someone tunes in to watch Strictly Come Dancing on a Saturday night while confessing to hate dance despite its title, well it can only be of their own accord. Most by now know what to expect. It doesn’t quite reach its predecessor's ludicrously funny heights. Nevertheless, a decade down the line and on its second UK tour, Peter Pan Goes Wrong remains a crowd-pleaser.

Reviewer: Jacob Newbury

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