Review: Peter Pan Goes Wrong at Newcastle Theatre Royal

Review: Peter Pan Goes Wrong at Newcastle Theatre Royal

Peter Pan Goes Wrong – Monday 12th February 

Peter Pan Goes Wrong is taking over Newcastle Theatre Royal this week and they are hoping to HOOK you in and take you to Neverland … if they ever make it! From the brilliant Henry Lewis, Jonathan Sayer and Henry Shields (and an ever growing creative team) of the Mischief Theatre Company and the creators of The Play That Goes Wrong comes this masterpiece. They currently have Peter Pan Goes Wrong touring across the UK, The Play That Goes Wrong still in the West End and Mind Mangler: Member of the Tragic Circle opening in the West End’s Apollo Theatre opening in March 2024- so a busy time for this deliciously creative company who began back in 2008. 

This tomfoolery began from the second we walked into the theatre with the curtains coming up at ten past seven and the “crew” of The Cornley Theatre Society took to the stage to begin the mayhem. I loved this interaction instantly with the audience and there was no waiting around for the show to start as we were immediately immersed in the action. They wandered through the audience talking to everyone as they passed and this led to some hilarious interactions. I adored this element of it. Especially when the stage director couldn’t get the lights to work and had to pass the extension lead throughout the audience! 

The way they controlled the lights throughout the whole of the Theatre Royal was so exciting and impressive too- especially the flickering lights! Lighting played a huge role throughout the play as it often kept going wrong! I particularly enjoyed the lighting of Tinkerbell’s skirt controlled by the stage manager whom she dragged onto stage with a thud! The use of blackouts was ingenious as well and had us on the edge of our seats as we were trying to figure out what was going on! It really was an integral part of the show and was expertly designed by Matt Haskins. 

The programme has to be one of the best I’ve ever seen as well and really tickled me as I was reading it. It was set up like any other Am-Dram programme with so many silly mistakes including word searches and spot the differences. A really fun touch which I’m still giggling at when reading – what a fun souvenir for this show.

As our show properly began we just knew things were going to be a disaster. Every single actor held their own on stage and I seriously do not know how they don’t injure themselves daily – or do they? A question I would love the answer to! The show began with the President and Director Chris- played by Jack Michael Stacey and his Co, sorry Assistant Director, Robert, played by Matthew Howell addressing the audience and giving us a little backstory of Cornley Theatre Society. They had upped their budget due to a sizable donation from the family of Max so they were excited to present to us the iconic Peter Pan – NOT a Pantomime – or so they think! The audience jeered and jibed throughout with an onslaught of the Panto variety – OH YES IT IS! He’s behind you! Much to the dismay of the pompous producer. 

I adored the Narrator played by Jean- Luke Worrel with that beaming grin which lit up the stage as well as his magical flourish of glitter every time he entered the stage on that stupid chair which caused so much ridiculousness. His version of It’s Raining Men in the second half also ate and left no crumbs as he distracted the audience from the disaster behind. 

The chaos began from the very beginning of the show as we first met Wendy played ever so sweetly by Chiara Morris – she seemed to have the least go wrong for her, the lucky girl. Her little brothers John (Dennis) played by Clark Devlin and Michael (Max) played by Theo Toksvig-Stewart came on and proved to bring the energy. John could not remember any of his lines so had to use a headset throughout which was ingenious. The lines were delivered so flatly and he often kept switching on to other frequencies which he just assumed were his lines – a stroke of genius and delivered so brilliantly by Devlin. Max was the most adorable cast member and definitely got the hero, fan favourite part as the audience mainly felt sorry for him as the rest of the cast insisted on slating his acting and belittling him. He played this so sweetly and often gained rapturous applause and pity from the crowd. 

Director Chris also took several lead parts including Mr Darling and Captain Hook alongside his betrothed Mrs Darling who was played by local legend Jamie Birkett who later on in the performance showed off that Geordie accent. She was an absolute powerhouse performer on stage and I applaud her for those incredible facial expressions and understanding of physical humour. Things started to go really wrong from this point including being stabbed with a pair of scissors, missing cues, ridiculous quick changes which were never going to make it leading to half naked characters on stage. Then my favourite part of the first half was Robert playing Nana the Dog where he continuously got stuck within the cat flap. Absolutely hilarious, especially when poor Mrs Darling was trying to sing (which she did beautifully may I add) her children to sleep and the stage crew came to the rescue with hammers and chainsaws to release the hound. Carnage! 

The use of the staging was just immense and the design of the set was actually ingenious. I don’t quite know how they pieced it all together, or how they got it back together after the show! Simon Scullion expertly crafted this set that was designed to be destroyed. It was three separate scenes on a revolving platform – what could go wrong with a revolving platform I hear you ask? Well a lot when it doesn’t stop revolving! This was so cleverly used at the end as we kept being shown three different scenes after the other, each as chaotic as the last, especially the brilliant pirate ship which rocked from side to side. The collapsible bed scene was just outstanding too however, I don’t know how they dealt with being in that much of a confined space for such a long time. 

Peter Pan himself was played by the lothario Gareth Tempest who needed much more work on those aerial flying scenes. It did look so much fun but I don’t know how he wasn’t sick spinning and crashing into everything in sight. His shadow was beyond ridiculous and hilariously played by our Co Director Robert. At the end of the first half disaster did strike for Peter and during the second half the rather handsome stage crew member Trevor was played by Jake Burgum. He was left fully upside down in the harness cascading from the ceiling and still managed to deliver those lines – with a sneaky bit of bum out on stage – what a treat! The whole cast are incredibly brave as they often were left half dressed in front of a gigantic audience – no time for being shy within this show! 

More madness ensued as we witnessed mermaids on roller skates, interrupted voiceovers with audition tapes and slander of the cast and the most ridiculous scene had to be the black cloth with the neon hand puppetry. A truly iconic piece of theatre which was a disaster. There were so many special effects used creatively throughout from on stage explosions to cast being set on fire. Every single element had been carefully thought out and prepared. 

The final scene showed absolute destruction upon the stage after the huge grand finale which had my sides hurting from how much I’d been laughing. The shy, stage frightful Lucy was played by Rosemarie Akwafo and with her broken leg she hobbled over and finished off the show so sweetly – a huge difference to the madness we had just watched. 

My belly still aches from laughing and I cannot remember a time where I have laughed quite so much in the theatre. If you’re looking for a totally unique evening out, this one’s for you. Chaotic, catastrophic and creative in every way. A laugh a minute with this wonderful show.

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