Tuesday, May 28

Peter Pan Goes Wrong – Opera House, Manchester

Well, what a night! This show will live long in the memory for all the right reasons!

The ‘Cornley Drama Society’ (Mischief Theatre) have visited Cornley Polytechnic (The Opera House Manchester) to put on their production of Peter Pan (which is most definitely NOT a pantomime!). Cornley Drama Society is full of endearing characters, including over-ambitious wannabes, all of whom are hilarious, under-rehearsed, prop, stunt and line-bumbling amateur thespians. The programme (which is an absolute hoot!) informs that Members of the Cornley Youth Theatre have the honour of joining the ‘real near-professional actors and directors’ of the adult section of the Society, (whether they want to or not!) for this disastrous production of J.M. Barrie’s classic story about a mischievous boy from Neverland.

Peter Pan Goes Wrong was first performed at The Pleasance Theatre in London in 2013 before touring the UK. In 2015, it spent a Christmas season in the West End at the Apollo Theatre. In the same year, another genius creation by Mischief Theatre: The Play that Goes Wrong, established itself as a long running mainstay in the West End. Mischief Theatre has gone from strength to strength. Formed in 2008 by a group of former students of LAMDA Drama School, this talented company has created many more shows including: The Comedy about A Bank Robbery, Mischief Movie Night (the improvised movie live on stage), Groan Ups, Magic Goes Wrong with Penn and Teller, and the new show, Mind Mangler: Member of the Tragic Circle. Mischief’s TV credits include The Goes Wrong Show. This winning formula of calamitous comedies clearly has an enduring, universal appeal. Long may it continue. This is good, clean (mostly!) fun, filled with slapstick, physical feats and expert comic timing.

Photo: Pamela Raith Photography

The exquisite Opera House theatre was in many ways the perfect setting, not least because this majestic theatre had its own inauspicious start.  First opened on Boxing Day 1912, the audience for Kismet were kept waiting for 90 minutes whilst an accident to the drop cloth was rectified with an ill-fitting, make-do, narrow cloth which exposed the rafters of the stage. Loud hammering and repairs took place in front of the bewildered audience. This has many parallels to the goings on in Peter Pan Goes Wrong, in which the ‘backstage crew’ jump in, in increasingly inventive ways, to save the show.

Mischief Theatre/Cornley Drama Society heap pile upon pile, of seemingly non-stop misdemeanours and madcap capers onto the stage, including Peter Pan’s erratic flying, the Narrator’s wayward chair, Tinkerbell’s near fatal accident, embarrassing offstage mic revelations as well as the climatic shenanigans with the superb revolving stage (to name a few!).

Every member of this excellent company deserves credit, all were integral to the story and hilarity, with many taking on numerous parts (again a great source of comedy, particularly from Jamie Birkett as Mrs Darling, Lisa and Tinkerbell). Clark Devlin’s portrayal of Dennis (who hilariously recites his lines using headphones) gave a nod to comedy greats such as the multi-talented, Sir Norman Wisdom. This cast (and crew) made the show look effortless, but the level of rehearsal and skill to achieve this is off the scale. Mischief Theatre with Adam Meggido (Director), alongside the writers, Henry Lewis, Jonathan Sayer and Henry Shields have created a barnstorming show that deserves to run and run.

You have to see this show to believe it! I’d heard it was funny but all truth be told I was worried I might find it all a bit cringe worthy, but how wrong I was! Myself (and my somewhat hard to impress teenage son) guffawed, giggled, grinned and gasped as the non-stop mayhem, in the Darling family household and Neverland, unravelled before our eyes.

Mischief Theatre fully understand the intricacies of the world of theatre, inside out and upside down for that matter! This show will strike a chord with anyone that has been involved in amateur dramatics in any way, shape or form. It certainly delighted all age groups on this opening night performance. I overheard a child in front of me gasp, “I’m going to die from laughter!”.  This was perfection of the imperfection from start to finish. In many places the show was jaw-droppingly brilliant – that was if I had time to let my jaw drop, as I was too busy laughing at the cleverly choreographed chaos.

It feels like this show is a tribute to the wonders of amateur theatre and to all the (very often, unsung) heroes who work tirelessly behind the scenes to get a show running smoothly. Fittingly and deservedly so, the real backstage crew came on to take a bow at the end for the standing ovation.

Playing until 30th March, https://www.atgtickets.com/venues/opera-house-manchester/

Reviewer: Emma Wild

Reviewed: 26th March 2024

North West End UK Rating:

Rating: 5 out of 5.