Review: PETER PAN GOES WRONG, Lyric Theatre

A fun show that is perfect for the Christmas season

By: Nov. 29, 2023
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Review: PETER PAN GOES WRONG, Lyric Theatre
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Peter Pan Goes Wrong

From the second you walk into the Lyric Theatre auditorium, you are greeted with the classic Mischief chaos. Cast members can be found wandering around in character, with some desperately trying to ensure everything is ready for the show, others simply saying hello to audience members and one trying to make a quick escape due to a bout of stage fright.

Audience members are pulled into the chaos as well, being asked by stagehands if they’ve seen a hammer or being told to spool a wire across the stalls to reach the tech box in the back. Not even reviewers are safe - while taking notes on the antics around me, the director, Chris Bean (Harry Kershaw), insisted that I write there was a “good ambience” and told the family in front of me to laugh extra hard, regardless of whether they liked the show or not. Even the programme is kept within the university of a show with a “programme within a programme” of the Cornley Polytechnic Drama Society receiving their own programme before the official Mischief cast’s programme. 

Written by Mischief trio Henry Lewis, Jonathan Sayer and Henry Shields and directed by Adam Meggido, Peter Pan Goes Wrong brings the Cornley Polytechnic gang back to the West End, this time taking on the “traditional Christmas vignette,” definitely not a pantomime, as Director Chris Bean emphatically informs the audience.

This time, Chris is joined by a co-director/assistant director, Robert (Matthew Howell), who is determined to prove that he is a better director and actor than Chris, a rivalry that was first established in The Play That Goes Wrong. The cast is made up of a mix of the current UK touring cast of the show and those who had been in its Broadway and Los Angeles runs earlier this year, making for a fun combination of old and new Mischief performers. 

The highlight of Peter Pan Goes Wrong is its brilliant cast who are able to show off a range of skills through the show. Charlie Russell proves hilarious as Sandra, constantly showing off her talents and great facial expressions in reactions to chaos. Matthew Cavendish is a delight as Max, playing a range of characters including the Crocodile (who quickly becomes an audience favourite). Greg Tannahill continues to prove his genius as a physical actor, slamming into the set as he flies around the set as Jonathan playing Peter Pan. Clark Devlin is clueless in the best way as Dennis, who wears a headset with lines being fed to him over the radio. 

Peter Pan Goes Wrong

Matthew Howell remains a constant scene-stealer throughout the show, whether he’s doing jazzy dances as Peter Pan’s shadow or talking in an absolutely ridiculous accent as a pirate. Jean-Luke Worrell as Francis, The Narrator, has a winning smile and some fantastic moments of physical comedy involving the Narrator’s chair going on and off the stage. Nancy Zamit as Annie is given many chances to shine throughout the show including brilliant quick changes, a comedic (yet lovely!) lullaby, and some fantastic moments of physicality as Tinker Bell. Even the awkward yet sweet Lucy, played by Ellie Morris, gets a chance to take centre stage, regardless of her debilitating stage fright!

Even though he’s meant to be stage manager, even Trevor (Chris Leask) gets pulled into the action, including a very funny moment in which he takes over the lead role which, as you can guess, leads to more disaster. A particular favourite of mine, as it is with most things related to Mischief’s shows, is when Chris Bean has his eventual breakdown and verbally attacks the audience. Kershaw’s portrayal of this breakdown was truly a sight to behold, including lines like “We gave you a red carpet and I didn’t see a single celebrity, just reviewers and TikTokers” and referring to other performers like Nicole Scherzinger with statements like “She’s off at Sunset Boulevard murdering her lover every evening, no one boos!” 

Mischief has its own form of Murphy’s Law that I have coined “Cornley’s Candle” - if there is a prop on stage, it is guaranteed to cause more chaos. Whether it’s an actual candle that leads to on-fire cast members, a bottle of medicine causing chaos for a man with a hook for a hand or a broom keeping the set from rotating, everything will inevitably come crashing down around the cast. A few of the gags become less believable the closer you are to the stage, especially with some delayed sound effects meant to sound like the actors’ bodies hitting pieces of the set. 

Peter Pan Goes Wrong

The set itself, designed by Simon Scullion, is its own character within Peter Pan Goes Wrong, taking on a mind of its own at times and wreaking havoc as the performers try to get through the show. Some of the final scenes of the show, which involve a constantly-rotating set piece, are absolutely brilliant and look like quite the workout. Even though things may seem like they’re going wrong, everything is expertly choreographed down to the second to ensure the safety of everyone on stage while making the audience believe everything is truly going wrong. 

Peter Pan Goes Wrong still sometimes struggles to find itself outside of the shadow of the original Mischief hit, Peter Pan Goes Wrong, with some gags sounding very familiar if you have seen both shows. The production also shares the issue that sometimes jokes, particularly those involving physical comedy, go on too long, making for some awkward pauses in which the laughter from one joke has run out and the second joke has yet to arrive. But, even with these moments, Peter Pan Goes Wrong does find its own ways to shine, including some musical numbers like the catchy “World of Make Believe” and some confessional moments over recordings, as the audio plays a much bigger role in this show. 

Ultimately, Peter Pan Goes Wrong is a fun show that is perfect for the Christmas season, regardless of whether it is truly a pantomime or not. Mischief Theatre continues to provide laughs for audiences of all ages, bringing more comedy to the West End in a time in which we sorely need it. 

Peter Pan Goes Wrong runs until 14 January 2024.

Photo Credit: Pamela Raith Photography