Mischief Theatre, already a West End success story with 2012’s hugely popular The Play That Goes Wrong, take on J.M. Barrie’s beloved childhood favourite Peter Pan, and turn it into a farce full of slapstick silliness and controlled chaos in this pantomimesque performance. Even before the show starts, the backstage cast have the audience engaged in comical antics as they desperately try to sort out the electricity problems and scenery issues before the first act commences.
Members of the Cornley Polytechnic Drama society fail spectacularly well at each turn: collapsing scenery, most notably the triple bunk bed in the opening scene; mislaid props (Captain Hook has to drink hand sanitiser as his rum has gone AWOL); and technical mishaps combine with a lack of acting talent to ensure that every scene of the play goes wrong in spectacular fashion.
The genius behind this premise of a play about an amateur production is that we get to know the characters who are playing other characters: their petty rivalries, artistic pretensions and various foibles. Dennis’ complete inability to learn any lines at all necessitates him using a headpiece throughout and having his lines written on large boards. The headpiece frequently malfunctions, accidentally broadcasting secrets about the troupe’s romantic dalliances to the player’s embarrassment.
Harry Kershaw, as director Chris Bean – who is also playing Captain Hook – is a comedic delight, his frustrations at the constant mishaps causing him to morph into a Fawlty-esque tyrant, taking his anger out on the actors, and also the audience at times. Bean has an irrational hatred of pantomime, and woe betide anyone who heckles him with a “He’s behind you!” or “Oh no he isn’t!” Nancy Zamit also shines whilst juggling a trio of roles: Mrs Darling, Tinkerbell and Liza the maid, regularly necessitating split-second costume changes.
The story plays out to the adage of “If anything can go wrong, it will go wrong” with impeccable comedic timing and boundless energy. You need huge talent to fail as spectacularly as Peter Pan Goes Wrong.
Peter Pan Goes Wrong, Wales Millennium Centre, Mon 22 Jan
On until Sat 27 Jan. Tickets: £16.50-£50. Info: here
words SARAH EDWARDS