Peter Pan Goes Wrong (Apollo Theatre)

Mischief Theatre return with a wonderfully haphazard take on J.M. Barrie’s classic tale

The cast of Peter Pan Goes Wrong
The cast of Peter Pan Goes Wrong
© Alastair Muir

There’s a reason shows like The Phantom of the Opera and Les Mis have changed little since opening in the West End 30 years ago; when you have a winning formula your best bet is to stick with it. Which is exactly what Mischief Theatre have done with their festive offering, the riotously funny play-within-a-play, Peter Pan Goes Wrong.

The under-funded and over-ambitious Cornley Polytechnic Drama Society – first seen in Mischief's runaway success The Play That Goes Wrong – returns with its sights set on J.M. Barrie’s classic stage play. As they attempt to tell the story of Wendy and Peter’s adventures in Neverland, everything that can go wrong does.

As Peter Pan (Greg Tannahill) struggles to get to grips with flying, Tinker Bell (the fabulously ebullient Nancy Wallinger) electrocutes herself on her Christmas light-adorned dress and a stuttering, ridiculously clumsy Tootles (Ellie Morris) breaks every bone in her body. Understudies haven’t been needed as much since most of the cast of Miss Saigon came down with the lurgy on one night.

The entire cast of ten, who rarely stop falling, bumping, tripping, slipping or bouncing off things, are truly impressive. Many of the original actors from The Play That Goes Wrong star alongside a few new faces including the wonderful Tom Edden as Francis. There’s standout performances from Jonathan Sayer (Dennis, Smee and John) whose lines – and Magic FM – are fed to him over wireless headphones, Henry Shields as director Chris Bean (as well as Hook and George) is a welcome return with his pithy one-liners, and Henry Lewis (Robert, Nana and Starkey) had me in stitches from the off. But it’s Dave Hearn (Max, Michael and Crocodile) who threatens to steal the show, clever with his comic timing in TPTGW, a master of it now.

Written by the aforementioned trio of Sayer, Shields and Lewis, the play rockets along at a speed of knots and direction from Adam Meggido ensures that not a single opportunity for a laugh is missed. Perhaps the shining star of the production is Simon Scullion's set (and indeed the crew that operate and rebuild it every night), essentially the eleventh cast member, it provides as many laughs as the actors on stage, if not more.

Before winning WhatsOnStage and Olivier Awards, touring the UK, transferring to the West End and appearing on the Royal Variety Show at the Albert Hall this week, The Play That Goes Wrong started out as a one-act comedy above a pub in Angel, and whilst lengthening their tight original structure to make it commercially viable means that each act is perhaps five minutes too long, it's not hard to imagine their follow up having similar successes.

With every theatre in the land mounting their own festive production, choosing which one to take your family to can be a chore, but Peter Pan Goes Wrong is an absolute must see. Book your tickets now and I guarantee you'll have an awfully big adventure.

Running time: Two hours five minutes including interval.

Peter Pan Goes Wrong runs at the Apollo Theatre until 31 January 2016.