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Peter Pan Goes Wrong

Henry Lewis, Jonathan Sayer, Henry Shields

Mischief Theatre

Opera House, Manchester

March 26-31, 2024; 2 hrs


The crew's all here: avast me hearties, with fairy dust, in Peter Pan Goes Wrong. All pics: Pamela Raith Photography
The crew's all here: avast me hearties, with fairy dust, in Peter Pan Goes Wrong. All pics: Pamela Raith Photography

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A yell of “It’s not even Christmas!” from Jack Michael Stacy’s irate director Chris was nowhere near enough to stop the audience at Manchester’s Opera House from claiming this “Not A Pantomime” as their own. 

Determined to respond to every “He’s behind you!” and “Oh yes it is!” opportunity, they booed and hissed and cheered and Oohed and Aahed and roared with laughter as Peter Pan Goes Wrong went very wrong.

Which is, of course, exactly what Mischief Theatre wants. The …Goes Wrong brand is nothing if not a full-on audience participation experience and this touring production – Pan’s 10th anniversary – was absolutely on message. It was hard to tell when it actually started; with the house lights still up we found ourselves searching underneath seats for something or other (a toffee apple was mentioned), and helping with some highly dodgy electrics involving the ice cream kiosk. 

Then we were off, with the familiar raft of non-functioning scenery, lost props, missed cues, lightning costume changes and all round daftness.

At the risk of exposing my inner curmudgeon, I am not normally a fan of the Charlie Chaplin/Laurel and Hardy/Benny Hill style of slapstick with a dash of mild smut on the side. But this, well... the speed, the precision, the risk, the pin-prick accuracy of it all just blows you away.

Cornley Polytechnic Drama Society, following a string of low-budget productions – most notably Jack and the Bean – presents for our pleasure its own interpretation of JM Barrie’s Peter Pan. It comes (thanks to a large parental donation to secure a part for a wannabe actor student) complete with revolving stage, a drunkenly bucking pirate ship, flatpacking bunkbeds, heart-in-the-mouth flying experiences, and a leading lady (Ciara Morris as Wendy) who is the official face of Superdrug’s own-brand lip-gloss (this last gem from the programme, a rare occasion when I would say buy one, it’s an excellent read.)

To say the cast is energetic and acrobatic is to say Usain Bolt is a bit quick. Designer Simon Scullion’s set, which has a life of its own and collapses at the drop of a hat (often with less provocation than that) is a thing of wonder.  

Hard to single out individual performances, but Matthew Howell’s turn as Peter’s sex bomb shadow is a joy, while Jean-Luke Worrell as the narrator gives a masterclass in comic timing as he freezes, waiting for a mechanical exit that never comes.

There are of course the odd sections that don’t quite work, even when they aren’t meant to be working; the mermaids and the lagoon don’t really come together, and John's headset backstage prompter gag wears a bit thin.  

But that is to be nit-picky; the show is helter-skelter fast, the script is clever (with nods to Andy Burnham and the Arndale) and the laughter is constant.

Director Adam Meggido has worked a blinder and the stage crew, who all take a well-deserved curtain call, must be one of the hardest working in the business.

Peter Pan may have gone wrong, but all’s very right with this terrific performance.

Info and tickets here


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