Ever since we saw the hour-long TV-adaptation of this play during the Christmas holidays in 2016 – which firmly sealed our fate as fans of the Mischief Theatre Company (creators of other hilarious shows such as The Play That Goes Wrong and The Comedy About a Bank Robbery) – both myself and my younger son have hankered after witnessing the full-length comedy of errors on stage.
So when we saw it was coming to Cardiff’s New Theatre, we couldn’t wait.
But of course, we had to wait.
And the wait was worth it.
What a side-splitting, laugh out loud night it was.
A mix of clever observational comedy, full-on farce, slapstick, chaos and catastrophe, this play will have you shrieking with laughter.
It follows the ill-fated, inept, over-ambitious and downright dangerous Cornley Polytechnic Theatre company as they (attempt to) to stage a showing of Peter Pan.
Get to the theatre early, because the pandemonium begins before curtains up when the ‘backstage crew’ attempt to set the stage and plug in the lighting with the help of the audience in the stalls.
Then it’s on to the play itself – and from the start it ensures that every theatre convention goes wrong – from exploding lighting to slip-ups and skids on set, collapsing scenery to corpsing on stage, missing props to costume mishaps, awkward silences to secret (embarrassing) recordings being played out loud and a ‘flying’ Peter Pan careering headlong into all sorts of dangers and wrecking the set in the process. There are broken limbs, concussion and near-death experiences, but the show must go on!
A laugh a minute (literally), we were struck by what talented actors absolutely everyone on stage was (it’s really not easy to play a poor actor unless you’re a great one yourself!).
We loved Max (Tom Babbage) who plays Michael Darling – a shy, bullied soul who looks open-mouthedly touched and surprised by support from the audience. Katy Daghorn played an impeccable overly dramatic Sandra as Wendy Darling and Romayne Andrews as Dennis is a comically inept John Darling wearing a headset so that he can deliver his lines (plus the instructions he’s meant to keep to himself!).
Our hats go off to Phoebe Ellabani as Annie who is hilarious as she takes on the multiple roles of Mrs Darling, Lisa, Tinker Bell and Tiger Lily – with frenzied, breathless costume changes that leave her exposed (in more ways than one). And we loved the comical anger of Chris (Connor Crawford) as Mr Darling and Captain Hook, berating the audience for treating his production as if it is a pantomime!
Patrick Warner as Francis (the narrator) is amusingly pushed to the limits by his props and Ciaran Kellgren as Jonathan (Peter Pan) shows great physical acting skills as he is forced to bungee jump his way around the eaves in what should be his magical flying scenes, thanks to the incompetent backstage staff.
Oliver Senton is a full-on funny presence on stage as Robert (Co-Director of the show) who romps around riotously as Nana the Dog and shines as Peter Pan’s shadow. Ethan Moorhouse is spot-on as Trevor the backstage hand who shuns the spotlight but who ultimately finds himself exposed to it and Georgia Bradley who plays Lucy will leave you feeling sore and sorry for what she’s got herself unwillingly into.
The set itself is also a star of the show. From brilliant bunkbeds to a revolving stage that just won’t stop, it really is a work of genius. As is the whole show.
I can’t recommend this play enough – it’s one for the whole family and will not only leave you laughing all the way home, but also marvelling in how clever it all was to pull off so very well (or should I say badly).
It’s on until 10 November at The New Theatre Cardiff – more information, here