Peter Pan Goes Wrong (UK Tour) - Theatre Royal Bath Review
Worth the wait?
Sometimes, no matter how big a fan you are of something, there can be a part of that something that simply escapes you, and it can take some time to find it. As you may be aware, I am a huge fan of all thing’s mischief theatre, and I’ve seen a lot of it. The Play That Goes Wrong (23 times and counting), The Comedy About A Bank Robbery, Magic Goes Wrong, Groan Ups, Good Luck Studio and Mischief Movie Night. But there has been one Mischief Theatre production that has always been just that little bit out of my grasp. And that is Peter Pan Goes Wrong. Of course, I’ve seen the TV version more times than I could possibly count, but up until now, I haven’t managed to see it on stage. But now, that’s changed. I’ve finally been to Neverland thanks to this new UK Touring production, and just when I thought that I couldn’t possibly love Cornley Drama Society more, this show comes into my life.
Stepping away from Haversham Manor, this time Chris (Jack Michael Stacey), Robert (Matthew Howell), Sandra (Ciara Morris), Max (Theo Toksvig-Stewart), Annie (Jamie Birkett), Dennis (Clark Devlin), Jonathan (Gareth Tempest), Lucy (Rosemarie Akwafo) and Trevor (Jake Burgum) along with Francis (Jean-Luke Worrell) are attempting to stage the classic Peter Pan, but this is Cornley, and the clue is the title here, things go wrong. Dennis can’t remember his lines, Chris and Robert can’t agree on anything, Trevor would rather be anywhere else but here, Annie’s having costume troubles, and Jonathan can’t seem to get the hang of flying. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg.
If you are looking for a top-notch comedy double act, then this production provides it. Jack Michael Stacey as Chris (playing Mr Darling and Captain Hook) and Matthew Howell as Robert (playing Starkey, Nana and Shadow) will have you in stitches from beginning to end; argumentative banter bounces effortlessly between them as Robert desperately tries to up his title to co-director whilst playing multiple characters and showing off his pirate voice and Chris tries to hold the show together to the best of his ability, all whilst trying to maintain control of his temper. Stacey has the audience eating out of the palm of his hand when he breaks the fourth wall and showcases a fearless approach to physical comedy with some rather impressive stunts throughout. Howell’s Robert is bold and brash, confident, and boisterous; he delights in playing multiple roles and expertly improvises with the audience, earning many a laugh and cheer.
Clark Devlin’s Dennis (playing John Darling and Smee) proves a hit with the crowd, with the forgetful character relying on headphones to feed him his lines. Slip ups and misunderstandings occur with brilliantly hilarious results, with Devlin’s ability to say a lot without saying a word shining bright, a simple panicked look to his co-stars and the audience is enough to induce laughter. As Sandra playing Wendy, Ciara Morris enchants. Both sweet and sassy, she takes the confident leading lady character and creates her own style, showing the two sides to Sandra as she interacts with both Tempest’s Jonathan and Toksvig-Stewart’s Max.
If you were to ask people who have watched the BBC TV version of Peter Pan Goes Wrong to recite a line from it, I can imagine that most would come back with one answer and that would be ‘Snap Snap’. The crocodile is perhaps one of the most iconic characters from this production, and as Max playing both Michael Darling and the crocodile, Theo Toksvig-Stewart is firm favourite of the audience. It is Max who becomes the emotional heart of the Cornley drama society story within the production, and Toksvig-Stewart takes it all in his stride, both heart-warmingly sweet and innocent along with a wonderful sense of passion and determination. And if you wanted proof that this is a show for whole family, just listen to the reaction every time the crocodile appears on stage, cheers and applause from the adults and a soft chorus of ‘snap snap snap’ from the delighted children.
Gareth Tempest as Jonathan playing Peter Pan provides a masterclass in physical comedy, both bouncing and flying around the stage, showboating the ego of both Peter and Jonathan (actor/model) himself. He is confident against all the odds, and you find yourself willing him on. Jake Burgum’s Trevor personifies the ‘I don’t want to be here’ attitude somehow combined with an overbearing willingness to help out wherever he is needed, a real sense of ‘if I started it, I may as well finish it’. As Francis, a new member of Cornley, who takes on the role of the narrator and pirate Cecco for this production, Jean-Luke Worrell shines in his interactions with both audience and cast members, fizzing with energy and high-level improvisational skills. Jamie Birkett’s Annie who plays the roles of Mrs Darling, Tinkerbell and Curly makes quick changes look easy and earns many a laugh as she battles her way through lullabies, communicates through dance and tries to interpret Robert’s pirate voice whilst Rosemarie Akwafo’s Lucy as Tootles has the audience on her side throughout her stage fright and accident prone tendencies. The cast at this performance was completed by Clare Noy and Romeo Mika as assistant stage managers Flavia and Jack, aiding the chaos.
Mischief Theatre have always been at the top of the game when it comes to physical comedy and the art of creating chaos with split second timing, but this production takes that to a whole other level. Combined with a set that seemingly has a mind of its own, the stunts are bigger, bolder and more hilariously shocking than ever before. If you want to see audiences scream with laughter, then go and see this show. There is spinning, flying, falling, climbing, flipping and flapping, plus much much more. And whilst if you have watched the TV version, you may feel as if you know what to expect here but trust me, in this longer full stage version there are several moments that you simply won’t see coming, lots of surprises and fun Cornley fun and silliness.
If you are looking for something hilarious, brilliantly put together, wickedly clever and laugh out loud brilliant, which will delight the whole family and leave you grinning from ear to ear , then you better get booking your tickets to Peter Pan Goes Wrong. And make sure that you get to your seat nice and early, as just with The Play That Goes Wrong, the action starts before the official start time. I started this review by asking ‘worth the wait’ and I can now 100% confirm that it was. Seeing this production was a dream come true, and I’m already counting down to when I can see it again.
Peter Pan Goes Wrong plays at the Lyric Theatre London from 23 November to 14 January before heading back on tour until the 14th April 2024.