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Mischief Theatre are back in Canterbury this week, nearly 3 years after they were last at The Marlowe Theatre for The Play That Goes Wrong. However this time the company is causing chaos with Wendy Darling, Captain Hook and their hilarious 2013 play ‘Peter Pan Goes Wrong’. Known for their utterly bonkers comedy style, the latest touring production features the fictional Cornley Polytechnic Drama Society once again, but this time they are taking on J. M. Barrie’s classic. In what is easily my favourite show of theirs yet, the company has reached new heights in how far they will go for a laugh and it has led to an exhilarating night at the theatre. I was thrilled to have the opportunity to review it yesterday evening, on the opening night here in Kent.
About the show
The title is completely indicative of the plot, with the drama society’s theatrical venture taking a turn for the worse as soon as the play within a play officially starts. Over the course of 2 hours including an interval, the ‘amateur’ performers take on the classic story, with the performance packed full of injuries, near misses, falling sets and company gossip. It descends into chaos by the end, with the entire fake show unravelling in front of our eyes.
Immersive theatrical mayhem
From the moment that you walk into the auditorium, it is immediately obvious that the comedy troupe is in residence. The material starts in such an engaging way, with the staging fully visible before the performance begins and members of the cast interacting with the audience in their seats. The atmosphere is relaxed and audience participation is encouraged, creating a fun atmosphere in the theatre. Additionally, at the interval there are sound effects which indicate technical difficulties, keeping the chaotic theme going, even during the break.
Clever set design and destruction
With colourful sets that represent Neverland and the Darling’s home, it is fascinating seeing how Simon Scullion’s designs get ‘destroyed’ throughout the action. Some of the locations are presented on a rotating platform, revealing the cast’s backstage antics and amplifying the pace of the narrative. This segment was a highlight of the second act for me, adding to the cast dramas and craziness of the show.
A silly comedy with heart
Underneath the sheer madness of it all, there are some really endearing characters such as Max (Michael Darling, Mermaid and the Crocodile, played by Theo Toksvig-Stewart) and Lucy (Tootles, played by Rosemarie Akwafo). In a show that is amplified by audience participation and interaction, it is brilliant to see how much the spectators get behind the underdog characters. The subplots about the cast relationships are a welcome surprise and add depth and humanity to the outrageously amusing production.
Details for the theatre fans
It goes without saying that this show is unbelievably funny, but as a theatre fan, I particularly enjoyed the references to the industry as a whole. I wasn’t expecting to see so many musical theatre shows mentioned, from SIX to Les Miserables, and it really helped bring home the idea that the show is about the wonder of theatre and how anything can go wrong!
Standout cast performances
I last saw Ciara Morris perform in the UK tour of Teechers Leavers ‘22 and their commitment to the dedicated Sandra is second to none. Their intentionally dramatic, damsel-in-distress portrayal of Wendy Darling is utterly brilliant, particularly when they are at the centre of a love triangle. Clark Devlin is also incredible as Dennis/John Darling/Mr Smee, never breaking from the wooden, mechanical character.
It is Jean-Luke Worrell who is the star of the show in my opinion, in his dazzling portrayal of Francis and the narrator of Peter Pan. Every time he makes an appearance he lights up the stage, bringing so much energy and charisma with him. It is such a delight watching him perform.
Comedy gold from Mischief Theatre
Peter Pan Goes Wrong is a hysterically funny production that consistently made me laugh throughout the runtime. If you need a pick-me-up and want to switch off for a couple of hours watching comedy professionals, definitely consider catching the show during its UK tour. The immersive aspects have turned the play into an evening of pure chaos, creating a priceless atmosphere. The last few tickets for the show’s time in Canterbury can be purchased via the Marlowe Theatre’s website. Performances run until Sunday 4th February.
Thanks for reading my blog today.
Love Kat xxxx
*My ticket for Peter Pan Goes Wrong was gifted in exchange for an unbiased review.