Peter Pan Goes Wrong

Feb 14 2020 | By More

★★★★☆  Nowt wrong

Festival Theatre: Tue 11 – Sun 16
Review by Thom Dibdin

Brilliantly silly and utterly hilarious, Mischief Theatre returns to Edinburgh with Peter Pan Goes Wrong, spending the half term holiday until Sunday at the Festival Theatre.

The show has gained in notoriety since it was at the King’s in 2015, having appeared – or at least half of it has appeared – as a BBC Christmas special. Safe to report that, with certain live-theatre caveats, the stage show is just as funny as it was on the telly. And, at points, even more so.

Phoebe Ellabani. Pic: Alastair Muir

The Cornley Polytechnic Theatre Club has come into a windfall £40,000 with which to stage its annual Christmas show, thanks to member Max’s uncle. Unfortunately, while the money has bought a revolve, clever scenery and full flying kit, it hasn’t bought the expertise to operate it…

Of course, nothing will go wrong on the night. Not a thing – just so long as the company are professional enough to ensure their egos and romantic entanglements don’t get in the way of their sparkling new adaptation of JM Barrie.

And thanks to Simon Scullion’s technically brilliant set design, when everything that can go wrong does so, the results bring tears of laughter streaming down the cheeks.

technical wizardry

It’s not all down to the technical wizardry, however. The cast have to cope with all the physical comedy of collapsing pieces of set, naked flames on stage and upsets with the flying equipment, while giving convincingly naive performances of amateur actors stepping up onto a big stage.

The current touring cast, slotting into the characters created by Henry Lewis, Jonathan Sayer and Henry Shields, easily come up to scratch in coping with the gadgetry.

Phoebe Ellabani, Oliver Senton and Romayne Andrews. Pic: Alastair Muir

James Marlowe as oily lethario Jonathan, who plays Peter Pan, excels in his ability to cope with dysfunctional flying equipment as he is lumped around the set, banging into the flats and soaring off into the wings.

Ethan Moorhouse as the control-freak stage manager Trevor goes one step further in his ability to cope with the out-of-control events. While Patrick Warner – as Francis – has a beautifully developed relationship with the chair from which Francis is expected to narrate the play.

If the set pieces provide the stunt laughs, it’s the points where mistakes are integrated into the narrative that add the stomach-quivering belly laughs.

Tom Babbage as the unfortunate Max, playing Michael Darling, and Romayne Andrews as the memory-challenged Dennis, playing John Darling, cope with everything the set throws at them with real skill while creating the two most convincing members of the Cornley players.

strongest caricature

There are less back-characters to work with for Katy Daghorn as Sandra, playing Wendy Darling, and Phoebe Ellabani as the over-worked Annie who plays Mrs Darling, the Darling’s housekeeper Annie, Tinker-bell and Tiger Lily.

Instead, Daghorn provides the strongest caricature of an over-enthusiastic actor of the kind who believes that every line needs a physical description with their hands. While Ellabani is in complete control of Annie’s ultra-quick costume changes, and their various failings.

The cast of Peter Pan Goes Wrong. Pic: Alastair Muir

Beyond the slapstick and the digs – never too pointed – at amateur performances, it is the politics of the theatre company that add the next level of comedy.

George Haynes as pompous director Chris, who has given himself the double part Mr Darling and Captain Hook, and Oliver Senton as the over-acting bloated-ego’d Robert – co-director, Nana, Shadow and Starkey – have a gloriously waring relationship on stage.

Haynes gets his big bits of interaction just about spot on. However Senton is the one chink in the armour. He has the really tricky bits of live slapstick which are not dependent on technical tricks and they didn’t always come off quite as slickly as they might have on press night. But that is the joy of live theatre – sometimes it isn’t perfect and when it does go right, it is surely superb.

plenty of extras

For those who are familiar with the one hour TV version, this offers plenty of extras. Not least the big rumbling revolve-based finale, which expands on the characterisation and relationships of the various Cornley cast members in a way the adaptation doesn’t attempt.

This is arguable the most theatrically successful of the Goes Wrong cannon. However fun the recent TV spoofs and other Goes Wrong stage shows might be, Peter Pan provides a solid spine on which to lace the mischief that the rest do not. And the result is all the more seriously great fun for it.

Running time: Two hours 10 minutes (including one interval)
Festival Theatre 13/29 Nicolson Street EH8 9FT. Phone booking: 0131 529 6000
Tuesday 11 – Sunday 16 February 2020
Evenings Tue to Sat 7.30pm; Matinees: Thu & Sat 2.30pm; Sun 2pm.
Tickets and details: Book here.

Peter Pan Goes Wrong on tour:
Tue 11 – Sun 16 Feb Edinburgh
Festival Theatre
0131 529 6000 Book online
Tue 18 – Sat 22 Feb Birmingham
The Alexandra
0844 871 3011 Book online
Tue 25 – Sat 29 Feb Coventry
Belgrade Theatre
024 7655 3055 Book online


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