BWW Reviews: PETER PAN GOES WRONG, Pleasance Theatre, December 13 2013
Surprisingly undaunted (indeed surprisingly unscathed) after their production The Murder at Haversham Manor (reviewed here) both packed out and demolished the Trafalgar Studios in the summer, Cornley Polytechnic's Drama Society return to the boards with the old Christmas favourite, Peter Pan. It doesn't go well - in fact, it goes wrong, very wrong.
Mischief Theatre's ".... Goes Wrong" formula has transferred to a larger theatre, been pumped up to nearly two hours' duration and even has a revolving stage, but just about keeps the hi-energy physical comedy coming and the intra-cast backbiting bubbling sufficiently to make their seasonal offering every bit as much fun as their breakthrough show. So far, only one member of the company, Nancy Wallinger, has suffered an actual injury, so the show goes on, with life imitating art a little more closely than intended.
Henry Shields, Henry Lewis and Jonathan Sayer have wisely written a show that stays close to JM Barrie's original Peter Pan - in the rare moments that the "play" breaks through chaos - so the audience have a familiar story on which the gags pile up, sometimes literally. Amongst a tremendously committed cast, Dave Hearn as the shy Max and Charlie Russell as the object of his affections deserve special credit for managing to create a completely believable backstage love story while getting as bashed and beaten as any other member of the society as scenery collapses and props become inadvertent weapons. Henry Lewis himself takes a terrible battering - surely his fellow writers must have written his part!
Though not a pantomime, the show contains many of panto's best features: slapstick; bad gags; pathos and a big song and dance number that is magnificently misconceived and wonderfully executed. The press night house was about 98% adults and 2% kids and everyone laughed from beginning to end. It's a testament to the skills of the sctors, the wit of the script and staging and the universality of its humour, that I can quite imagine an audience comprising 98% kids and 2% adults giving it exactly the same reaction. The alternative Family Christmas Show is a hackneyed phrase, but that's what Peter Pan Goes Wrong is. Grab your chance to see the cast there before you see them in casualty (that's A&E not "Casualty").