FringeReview UK 2019
This touring version of Mischief Theatre writers’ Henry Lewis, Jonathan Sayer, Henry Shields Peter Pan Goes Wrong is directed by Adam Meggido, with Simon Scullion’s exploding set revolve, Matt Haskins’s similarly exploding lights, with Roberto Surace’s costumes. Richard Baker and Rob Falconer’s ominously cod music is cut to pieces by Ella Wahlstrom’s sound. Associate directors Sean Turner and Hannah Sharkey take care of the tour. Till November 23rd then touring.
Between a murder and a bank robbery gone wrong, we’re subjected to low-flying fairies. Peter Pan Goes Wrong first appeared in 2014 and it’s the most tight and virtuosic of the three Mischief Theatre classics: there’s more coming.
The intimacy and bounce-off of a known narrative – unlike the other two plots – means there’s potential for a further layer, the relationship between at least some of the characters playing actors playing characters.
The Mischief Team come up with a subversion of a children’s classic that touches naughty but which most children over the age of fairies can enjoy. Welcome to Cornley Polytechnic’s run of Peter Pan. It mightn’t be a panto as the directors admit, but this team of college amateurs have a talent for rendering it that way. And after that disaster when a certain cast member squashed a boy and had parked a car so paramedics couldn’t reach him in time, you know you’re in safe hands. Perhaps it’s a good thing the live crocodile met its end when it mauled its keepers and had to be shot. Your programme will be littered with backstories. Just look up occasionally.
This touring version of Mischief Theatre writers’ Henry Lewis, Jonathan Sayer, Henry Shields Peter Pan Goes Wrong is directed by Adam Meggido, with Simon Scullion’s exploding set revolve like the Magic Roundabout on acid. It’s the most masterly of Mischief sets, an apparently expensive £40,000 patron’s gift for letting Max play Michael and the Crocodile. Divided into thirds it starts sedate and ends a carousel of chaos.
There’s the one-third of the Darlings’ nursery, then glade then mermaids’ cavern then a see-sawing pirate ship catapulting hapless Captain Hook through its sliding decks through to the nursery. Another hooks Hook to the ascending wheelchair used by an injured cast-member. And so on. And flailing hooks of another kind propel Peter through the air perilously to knock-out blows he never dreamed of. Or in one case rip off the clothes of the three Darling children, revealing they’re a bit more adult.
Matt Haskins’s similarly exploding lights involve electrocuting cuts, with Roberto Surace’s costumes. Richard Baker and Rob Falconer’s ominously cod music is cut to pieces by Ella Wahlstrom’s sound. Production Manager Digby Robinson takes care of the tour.
The play only goes wrong after some exquisite awkwardness from the two directors. Connor Crawford as the fruity-voiced Chris aka Mr Darling and Hook asserts he’s not assistant but co-director and his title’s duly amended throughout the programme – which did I say? – is essential reading. It doesn’t help there’s a tannoy mis-cue of all his audition voices attempting to get other parts, and an unfortunate way of relaying the sex lives of the cast or their apparent inability to act. We’ve heard that used but not to this mind-numbing extent. Crawford’s the pompous straight man to others. So’s Patrick Warner who as character Francis plays both Narrator and Cecco. He’s propelled in a chair which often throws him off or vanishes without him. It’s another straight-man act, and so constructed is this work you realize you need two anchors to drag everyone else to farce. Eventually Tootles has to take over. This is Georgia Bradley’s exquisite Lucy, full of stage fright and stutter, a touchingly realized part.
When Ciaran Kellgren orates ‘to die would be an awfully big adventure’ you know he’s going to end up dropped; but fear not, there’s relative happy endings. Kellgren’s Jonathan aka Peter conveys the handsome slightly narcissistic wannabe already having an affair with leading Wendy. Katy Daghorn enjoys a genuinely winning soprano range here as well as seeming one of the few characters – Sandra – wholly comfortable with getting on with it, or getting it on. Despite the guying intent, Sandra and Daghorn shine. However her Peter’s not as faithful as he seems, and Sandra has an admirer.
Moving from leading relatively straight people we get the farceurs like Tom Babbage’s Max, only in it because of that gift. It turns out though he really can act a leading role when the cast member’s a but indisposed, but can he attract the woman who seems impossibly far? And will it work in a crocodile suit he ‘plays like a mammal’ according to the directors, overheard by everyone. Babbage enjoys all the sympathy and many of the laughs.
Oliver Senton almost doubles for all the slapstick he has to pull, as the Darlings’ hapless dog Nana, stuck half through the nursery door and slammed into and out, many times As Peter’s Shadow and Starkey he can at least stretch his legs. There’s Ethan Moorhouse’s hapless Trevor, ASM muscle-man and to the rescue in more ways and positions than he can possibly have imagined.
There’s Phoebe Ellabani’s winsomely poised Mrs Darling and a roaring Tiger Lily and most of all, lusty Tinker Bell. Do you believe in fairies? When Tinker Bell’s been …. you might. Loudly. Romayne Andrews’ John Darling with phones perpetually over his head picks up and relays anything from Classic FM to very classified info. He acts like Kenny from Southpark. Understudies appear as stage managers: Eboni Dixon, Christian James, Soroosh Lavasani, Ava Pickett.
Of other stunts it’s difficult to pick out the best, and indeed not create spoilers. The basic story staggers through, cast determined to push to the finale, though several times standing in stunned disarray as yet again technical mishap flays another layer off, or more dangerously someone stumbles on someone else’s secret. There’s a few aaahs at the end for good reason. Peter’s great line about adventures becomes a touching epigram.
The Mischiefs cleverly milk the original lines when they arrive with new meaning. And add plenty more one-liners of their own. Material arises from the original Barrie classic; this lends it its special warmth and intricate brilliance. Oh and don’t be bamboozled into opening a bottle of poison if you’re in the front row, or take the blame if you do. Don’t listen to Hook. It really isn’t your fault. Outstanding.