You’d be a fool to change a winning formula and Mischief Theatre has once again struck gold with its hysterical take on the pitfalls and pratfalls of am-dram.
Audiences at Northampton’s Royal & Derngate have been laughing themselves senseless this week with Mischief’s latest production, Peter Pan Goes Wrong.
It follows last year’s opener by the group, The Play That Goes Wrong that proved a big hit with both regional and West End audiences. They’re not the catchiest of titles but accurately describe these eye-watering funny shows.
Just like The Reduced Shakespeare Company, the Mischief makers have given themselves a blueprint that could be used for any show (Hamlet Goes Wrong anyone? – actually no, not with all that fencing).
The basic premise is that we’re watching a production by the Cornley Polytechnic and mayhem ensues when just about everything that could go wrong does – spectacularly.
Props malfunction, scenes descend into chaos and the cast risk life and limb to give the performance of a lifetime.
I’d have serious misgivings if I was an actor to signing up with Mischief unless I had a huge life assurance policy. Pretty much all of the laughs come at the expense of the cast.
Of course, the comedy is beautifully choreographed so that no-one is actually injured but it’s with malicious glee that the audience rock with laughter as a player is flung through the air or crushed by scenery with the pièce de résistance coming when the revolve stage whirls out of control.
Peter Pan Goes Wrong surprisingly sticks pretty close to the original JM Barrie story – but it receives a wonderful comic twist in the hands of this accident-prone am-dram group from the poly.
George Darling & Captain Hook is played with full reference to John Cleese by Laurence Pears. Last night the poor man had to cope with two epic gigglers in the audience (and I had the misfortune of being sandwiched between them) but he rose to the challenge with some superb ad-libbing. It was pure Basil Fawlty.
Matt Cavendish as Max, won the theatre’s hearts (and milked it for all it was worth) as he was forced to play Nana The Dog and The Crocodile but, really and truly, was a Peter Pan in the making.
While a bearded Cornelius Booth got laughs playing the age card as Michael Darling and talking gobbledegook as Hook’s pirate Starkey.
Rosie Abraham made us guiltily giggle at a performer with a profound stutter while “stage manager” Chris Leask, and his builder’s bum, caused a titter each time he was called on stage.
Epic comedy from a seriously gung ho company not afraid to update vintage gags (the ladder sketch working well with a boat) and make them their own.
Peter Pan Goes Wrong is one of the best pantos I’ve enjoyed in years.
Until Saturday, Royal & Derngate
March 16-21, Theatre Royal, Plymouth
March 24-29, Devonshire Park, Eastbourne
March 31-April 4, Rose Theatre, Kingston
April 7-12, Cambridge Arts Theatre
April 14-18, Theatre Royal, Glasgow
April 20-25, Theatre Royal, Brighton
April 28-May 2, New Theatre, Cardiff
May 4-9, King’s Theatre, Edinburgh
May 11-16, Theatre Royal, Norwich
May 18-28, Theatre Royal, Windsor
May 25-30, Leicester Curve
June 1-6, Orchard Theatre, Dartford
June 8-13, Wyvern Theatre, Swindon
June 18-21, Grand Theatre, Leeds
July 1-4, Theatre Royal, Newcastle
July 6-11, Theatre Royal, Nottingham.