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BrumHour saw Peter Pan Goes Wrong at the invite of Wolverhampton Grand.
By Eleanor Lawson twitter.com/Elle_Lawson
Review: Peter Pan Goes Wrong at Wolverhampton Grand
⭐⭐⭐⭐”A guilty pleasure!”
Directed Adam Meggio, writers Henry Lewis, Jonathan Sayer and Henry Shields
We all get a perverse thrill when something goes wrong in a serious situation. Think of the worldwide delight when Professor Robert Kelly was being interviewed live on BBC News about South Korean politics when his young daughter threw open the door and swaggered into the room, closely followed by his nine-month-old son propelling himself in while in a baby walker. You couldn’t go on the internet or turn on the TV without seeing Kelly’s interview being abruptly interrupted by his two children. The world is so serious that we love it when we as audience members witness something going unexpectedly wrong.
Mischief Theatre has mastered the art of things going wrong, as evidenced by their extremely popular series of Goes Wrong productions, which you’ll often find on the TV around Christmas. Peter Pan Goes Wrong follows the same formula of a fictional drama company trying to stage a serious production of J.M. Barrie’s Peter Pan, but are repeatedly hindered by technical difficulties, the hubris of the directors and actors, and just sheer bad luck. Before the show has even started, we see the cast who are performing as crew members repeatedly trying to fix issues with the props and set, preparing the audience for the chaos that is about to follow.
Even the programme is a comedic delight, demonstrating the struggles and vanities of this fictional amateur dramatic company in intricate metatheatrical detail before the lights even went up on the show. I was giggling away in my seat at the actors and directors’ exploits, from the ill-fated youth trip that ended up being cut short by the NSPCC, to the company’s re-writing initiative, which has led to the rather dubious productions, Romeo and Juliet 2: Back from the Dead and Timon (and Pumba) of Athens.
Having already raised expectations before the show has even started, Peter Pan Goes Wrong starts its chaos at a breakneck pace that only increases exponentially. It never lets audience members get lazy, as there’s always something starting to unravel, or in some cases, catastrophically explode, leading you to inspect the stage constantly trying to find the next big disaster. Flying stunts go horribly wrong, actors get smacked across the face, knocked to the floor, or even stuck in props, and the emotional web of the actors’ personal lives starts to get even more thorny and tangled throughout the show. I’ve never been the biggest fan of slapstick or physical comedy myself, but I howled in my seat on countless occasions with the most guttural laughs, and I’m sure any sceptics would too.
The cast is impressively strong across the board, with every actor having their moment to shine. Matthew Howell and Jack Michael Stacey have a passive-aggressive tussle for control as director and assistant director, desperately trying to hold together the pieces of their show as it falls to tatters – a mess which is a product of their own making. Theo Toksvig-Stewart makes the whole audience fall in love with him as Max, who is seen as pathetic as he dotes on his castmate Sandra (Ciara Morris) and dreams of stepping into the heroic shoes of Peter Pan so he can kiss Sandra, who is playing Wendy. Jamie Birkett is a tour-de-force as she quickly alternates between Mrs Darling and Lisa, before really shining – or trying to shine, but the electric lights in her skirt keep failing – as the possessive but kind-hearted Tinkerbell.
Jean-Luke Worrell is an absolute howl as the glitter-flinging narrator who is always blighted by bad props management, and Rosemarie Akwafo perfectly sells the shell-shocked child who can’t overcome her stage fright. Meanwhile, every word Clark Devlin shouts out while playing Dennis – who hasn’t learnt his lines and is having them read to him through headphones – is an absolute killer.
This is an incredibly talented cast, perfectly executed by writers Henry Lewis, Jonathan Sayer, Henry Shields, and director Adam Meggio. Everyone loves it when things go wrong in a situation they’re not directly involved in, and this show perfectly taps into the vein of our guilty pleasures, using regimented planning and choreography behind the scenes to bring to life this absolute world of chaos.
Peter Pan Goes Wrong is at Wolverhampton Grand until 4th November. Book tickets here: grandtheatre.co.uk/whats-on/peter-pan-goes-wrong.