Wednesday, 29 January 2020

THEATRE REVIEW: Peter Pan Goes Wrong - The Lyceum Theatre, Sheffield.

Following the huge success of “The Play That Goes Wrong”, which opened in London’s Old Red Lion Theatre in 2012 - (which later went on to win the 2015 Olivier Award for best New Comedy); Mischief Theatre Productions are currently touring with the equally funny follow-up “Peter Pan Goes Wrong”.

Originally opening in 2013, the second instalment from Mischief writers Henry Lewis, Johnathan Sayer and Henry Shields is equally as side-splittingly funny as their first production and starts long before the curtain goes up with various cast members getting the audience involved with hilarious tasks. Once the curtains open, we meet the Director of the fictitious Cornley Polytechnic Drama Society, Chris Bean, and Assistant Director, Robert, who announce that after their previous underfunded production of “Jack And The Bean” they are pleased to have received a large cash injection to present their production of the J.M.Barrie classic Peter Pan. Of course, as with the (fictional) Drama Societies reputation they ruin it through amateurism and personal rivalries!

Soon with a sprinkle of fairy dust, the audience is transported to the Darling children’s bedroom where we meet the three Darling children - Wendy (Drama Society member “Sandra”), Michael (“Max”) and John (“Dennis”). Sandra (as Wendy) is clearly an over-performer, from the moment she enters the stage to the very end, Katy Daghorn is hilarious as the overbearing, over-the-top Amateur Dramatics' member (every AmDram groups has a “Sandra”!), whilst “Dennis” in the role of John (Roymayne Andrews) is the total opposite - wearing industrial type brightly coloured headphones, Dennis relies heavily on the Drama Society’s stage crew feeding him his lines from backstage - directly into his ear - which he then repeats back literally every word that is heard from backstage - in a hilarious monotone voice - with zero facial expressions or emotion put into his character. But you can’t help but love “Dennis” for this - constantly hanging onto the edge of your seat to hear what is next to come from his lips!

There’s very few remaining members of the Drama Society, meaning each “member” has to take on several roles - this just adds to the humour - especially with member Annie (Phoebe Ellabani) who has to quickly change costume several times from Mrs Darling to Lisa the Housemaid to Tiger Lily. “Robert” (Oliver Senton), is equally a joy to watch in each of his roles - from Nana the Dog, to Peter's Shadow to Starkey in Neverland, with each role leaving you laughing so hard the show should come with a health warning! “Trevor” - the Drama Society’s tech guy - is also a hoot to watch - especially when he has to step in to play Peter and we get to see a different side to Trevor!

It’s rare that lighting within a production can add to the humour and work so well, but there’s several scenes where lighting plays a huge part to the roars of laughter from the audience - my favourite part being under the sea - watch out for the octopus!

Whilst the production is filled with slapstick humour, it all feels very fresh, so well rehearsed that at times you think for a moment that a mishap wasn’t part of the plan - I laughed so hard tears ran down my face!

I saw The Play That Goes Wrong when it was at The Duchess Theatre in London in 2014 during a time when I was in and out of hospital and feeling incredibly low but I laughed harder than I had done in decades, leaving the theatre almost like a different person and feeling like I could suddenly deal with the challenges I was facing at that time - proving that laughter sometimes really is the best medicine! The production stayed in my mind for months afterwards, so in 2016 I was grateful for the televised adaptation of the follow-on production- Peter Pan Goes Wrong, having been unable to catch it first time round, so this 2019/2020 tour was exactly what I needed to keep me focused to get to the end of January. The perfect post Christmas cure!

Playing at Sheffield’s Lyceum Theatre until Saturday 1st February - there is no better remedy for the post seasonal blues!

Reviewer - Charlotte Davis-Browne
on - 28/1/20

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