Like the ‘mechanicals’ in A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Peter Pan Goes Wrong features an hilarious play within a play. The premise is that the Cornley Polytechnic Drama Society are staging a production which the fictional director insists is absolutely, definitely not a pantomime, but a Christmas vignette. Oh no it isn’t!
Following Murphy’s law, everything that can go wrong, does; and at the worst possible moment (Sod’s law). The program includes a note that no ‘Flying Operator’ has yet been found, and encourages members of the audience to express an interest. Prepare yourself for dropped lines, confused actors, abounding injuries, dropped actors, overacting, underacting, romantic misadventures, and a veritable storm of warring egos.
The magic was on show before we had even taken our seats. An actor dropped a number of cups at our feet, another stormed into the auditorium and off loaded a ream of material onto a bewildered lighting operator: we were initially left pondering the contrasting professionalism of the venue staff and the theatrical company.
Then the penny dropped: Trevor asked us to check under our seats for his hammer, without which he couldn’t start the show. A large electrical cord was passed through the audience, and so on. It was all part of the pre-show entertainment.
We started giggling as we paged through the program, hearing of the acquisition of the wrong variety of mince for the ‘mince pies’, and the death of Nadia, the ten foot Nile crocodile that Cornley Polytechnic had intended for the part of Hook’s nemesis. This is only the tip of the iceberg, there’s so much to like about this show. It’s genuinely funny and goes above and beyond what is required: it’s a true labour of love.
Peter Pan Goes Wrong opened on the West End for Christmas in 2015, and was nominated for the 2016 Laurence Olivier Award for Best New Comedy. It was written by Henry Lewis, Jonathan Sayer, and Henry Shields of the Mischief Theatre Company. This is the writing team responsible for The Play That Goes Wrong, a smash hit that picked up the Laurence Olivier Award for Nest New Comedy in 2015.
Set design (Simon Scullion) is spectacular, featuring a three-sided revolving centerpiece which is utilised for maximum comic effect. Costuming (Roberto Surace) is also immensely fun and provides plenty of mirth.
The performances themselves are top flight: Francine Cain is a real standout, the beating heart of the show, she hilariously portrays a Wendy who is desperate to showcase her talents at every possible moment.
Luke Joslin and Connor Crawford are an outstanding comic duo as director and co-director, with a particularly fine monologue from Joslin, who displays masterful comic timing, slowing down his pay-offs which accentuates the punch-lines when they do arrive.
George Kemp as Dennis delivers an astonishing monologue that completely derails the action. Jay Laga’aia, who referenced his appearances on Playschool, plays the narrator, and was greeted warmly to the stage: he knows how to deliver precisely what the audience want.
This show is fun for the whole family. There’s lots of laughs to be had no matter your age, with plenty of material pitched for adults. The Lyric Theatre advises ages six and up. The children in the audience were keen to get involved, calling out and participating whenever they thought they could get away with it. This is the Christmas panto done right!
Peter Pan Goes Wrong
Sydney Lyric Theatre, Pirrama Road, Pyrmont
Performance: Wednesday 13 February 2019 – 8.00pm
Season continues to 3 March 2019
His Majesty’s Theatre, Hay Street, Perth
Season: 7 – 17 March 2019
For more information, visit: www.peterpangoeswrong.com.au for details.
Image: Connor Crawford as Captain Hook in Peter Pan Goes Wrong – photo by David Watson
Review: Oliver Wakelin