Peter Pan Goes Wrong/A Christmas Carol Goes Wrong (Online review)

Peter Pan Goes Wrong/A Christmas Carol Goes Wrong (Online review)

As mentioned at the top of yesterday’s review it has been exactly a year since I set foot in a real theatrical venue which was for the then latest outing from Mischief Theatre in the form of Magic Goes Wrong (click here). Since then, of course, everything has gone wrong, but I couldn’t let the day pass without commemorating it in some way and what’s better and more fun than a show from Mischief? Why, two shows from Mischief and they currently have a double bill of Christmas goodies showcasing their gloriously chaotic style available to rent from a number of platforms.

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First is the 2016 televised version of the hit follow up to the original “Goes Wrong” farce, Peter Pan Goes Wrong. Based loosely on the J.M. Barrie original it more than lives up to its name as the Cornley Polytechnic Dramatic Society attempts to put on what the director Chris (Henry Shields) insists is a proper play and not a pantomime. Good luck with that as the live audience refuse to budge in their conviction that it is (Oh no, it isn’t!) and some of his fellow thespians wittingly or unwittingly ensure that comic mayhem rules, especially as there are complicated flying routines to master. Thus, in both his roles as Mr Darling and Captain Hook, he becomes increasingly frustrated with the incompetence with which he has surrounded himself though of course, just like Basil Fawlty, he is little better himself. Chief thorn in his side is Robert (Henry Lewis) who as the self-proclaimed best actor wants to show his versatility and does so as an almost unintelligible pirate, as Peter Pan’s shadow with some gloriously naff dance moves and as Nana the canine nursemaid who has persistent and increasingly hilarious difficulty with a dog flap. Admitting to no acting skills whatsoever is Dennis (Jonathan Sayer) who as John and Mr Smee has to be fed his lines through a headset and even then gets them wrong especially when he starts picking up calls from a cab company.

Nancy Zamit plays the majority of the female roles including Mrs Darling, the housemaid, a pirate, Tiger Lily with a Brooklyn accent (because she’s a Native American) and Tinkerbell; some of her swift costume changes are remarkable. In fact, the only female role she doesn’t play is Wendy (Charlie Russell) who is busy chasing after Peter…or at least Jonathan, the character playing Peter (Greg Tannahill) – keep up at the back! However, injury occurs and the role has to be assumed by “stage manager” Trevor (Chris Leask) until he in turn is injured and then it’s taken over by Max (Dave Hearn) who is also playing Michael and the Crocodile (snap snap!) These backstage dramas lead to another enjoyable level of farce being played out and the repercussions of this spill over into the main play. The whole thing is ring mastered with a special guest appearance by David Suchet as an increasingly bewildered and abused narrator and, yes, Suchet does get to give us his Poirot.

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The following Christmas the group got their collective teeth into a staple of the holiday season in A Christmas Carol Goes Wrong. Having seemingly been banned by the BBC for the previous year’s debacle, Cornley Polytechnic mount a guerrilla offensive against a recording of the Dickens’ tale and take over, displacing Derek Jacobi’s Scrooge in the process, much to the actor’s annoyance. The late Diana Rigg, apparently the aunt of one of the new cast, is drafted in for narration duties which have to be relayed via a mobile phone while making her way to the studio. The rest of the cast is pretty much as before though obviously taking on different characters in the play within a play. Chris and Robert are at loggerheads about who should play Scrooge and Dennis as Bob Cratchit is still having difficulty with his lines which are, this time round, scattered liberally all over the set which leads to some inspired sight gags. There’s a whole parallel story about the backstage “real life” manoeuvring of the performers and it turns out that Scrooge and the man playing him share many of the same traits from which both are redeemed in the end.

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Although both outings are pretty standard fare for the Goes Wrong team, I thought the Peter Pan show had the edge in terms of enjoyability. Interestingly this was the one that started life onstage before being transferred to a TV studio and it was replete with countless small details which makes their work a joy – especially for anyone who has ever been on stage attempting to entertain others. The run of last year’s Magic Show was cut short not long after I saw it and that is a pity as their real forte is in creating their shows in a live situation where the split second timing and the physical comedy can be truly admired for the triumphs they undoubtedly are. I just hope that in another year’s time I’ll have the choice to catch them performing in a real theatre again – now, that would indeed be magic.

Peter Pan Goes Wrong & A Christmas Carol Goes Wrong are available to rent on several platforms such as Amazon, Google, Apple, etc. To access options, click here

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For my Theatre Online list (suggestions and news of newly released productions) please click here. This list is supplemented by daily updates on Twitter (@johnchapman398)

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