Mischief Theatre, famous for inventing The Play that Goes Wrong as well as their recent TV series The Goes Wrong Show on BBC, recently visited the Storyhouse Theatre in Chester with their current tour Peter Pan Goes Wrong, and you won’t believe who went to see it (spoiler alert: its me). You’ll be utterly gobsmacked to hear that I absolutely loved it, every moment of the show was a treat and I spent most of it howling with laughter.
However, before I get into my review I must first acknowledge my wonderful wonderful boyfriend, who had to miss going to one of the biggest football games of the year for his home team so he could hang out with me. You are a very nice boy for picking me over football (yay!) and I promise to (try) not to get in the way of football ever again. I appreciate your sacrifice and I also appreciate my sacrifice for having to watch the match on TV with you with the symphony of shouts and swears. 😉
Now, onto the review! From the very first moment we walked into the theatre, the show had literally already begun. What I can only describe as wonderful chaos had swept over the auditorium. People were running around looking for props, building sets and just generally trying to get things ready for the performance. Honestly I completely regret waiting for ten minutes after the doors open to find our seats because it was just utterly magical, everywhere you looked something was happening; at one point a long cable had to be held from the back of the audience up to the stage, right through the middle of the seats. An actress tried to sneak out so she wouldn’t have to do the show, an actor arrived late and the stage manager was walking round in a muscle top drinking a bottle of beer. It was amazing. At one point the man playing Peter Pan showed up in the aisles wearing a Hawaiian shirt and sunglasses asking if anyone wanted signatures, and OF COURSE WE DID. Thankfully I bought a programme, and after he signed it my boyfriend went on something of a mission to get as many cast members to sign it as possible. Let this be a lesson to all theatre goers – always take a pen. Oh, and sit in an aisle.
I’m not sure whether its the theatre kid inside me, but I absolutely adore things like this, when the performance extends beyond the actual show. Fourth wall breaking, when its done well, is sublime and can really add to a performance, particularly the comical farce that “goes wrong” productions tend to drift towards. They very specifically refuse to be called a pantomime, and I don’t think they are a panto – despite some tongue in cheek “he’s behind you” moments. Peter Pan Goes Wrong falls into a lesser used genre, but a nonetheless fantastic one, of play within a play. Under the guise of the Cornley Polytechnic Drama Society, the real life actors all have two characters, society member they’re playing and the Pan character on top of that. this leads to some really wonderful “behind the scenes” moments where the drama of the society leaks into the performance (such as backstage romances and disgruntled directors) As a former member of a university drama society, I found these moments absolutely delicious and really added to the comedy of the piece as well as helping the whole thing go wrong.
I had already seen this show on tv when it was broadcast on the BBC a few years ago, so even though I didn’t go into this performance blind it in no way lessened my enjoyment and experience of it. I was worried that knowing what all the jokes were and when all the stunts were going to happen would have made the live performance boring and I wasn’t going to enjoy it, however I could not have been more wrong, and anything that I may have lacked by watching it on TV was more than made up for by the brilliant actors and the joy of seeing them do their thing not 20 feet in front of me. I really think its one of those shows that you have to see live to truly appreciate. The amount of effort, rehearsal and choreography that would have had to go into all the stunts and “goes wrong” bits must have been through the roof, and they all went off without a hitch. Its very easy to act a show and get it right, but to deliberately get something wrong on stage is possibly one of the hardest things to do as an actor. For example, at one point the father slipped and fell on some water on stage;which is very hard to do and make it look natural, realistic and to not get hurt. And yet I imagine he pulls it off every time.
Another detail that I want to point out is the use of their understudies. Rather than having them sit offstage waiting to step in when needed, the 4 of them took on the mantel of Cornley Polytechnic Society’s crew, and appeared at various points of the play to fix sets and do all sorts of wonderfully funny things in the background. I really appreciate when understudies, covers or swings have a role in the main cast, it might sound a bit odd but background actors are almost always my favourite part of any show. To see what an actor does when the attention isn’t on them is something I really enjoy watching; I love seeing the bits that other audience members probably haven’t noticed, and this show was definitely full of these moments.
I could truly write so much more about how much I loved this show. It was such a pleasure to watch, especially in my favourite theatre every – if you’re ever in the Chester area you should absolutely go and check out the Storyhouse, even if just for a coffee and a sit down. Mischief Theatre are even coming back in a few months with their new show Groan Ups – which I will absolutely be going to see and was even gifted tickets (Thanks Hazel and Tym!)
Mischief theatre keep absolutely smashing it, and watching their rise to popularity has been fantastic as I think they’ve really brought something new to the theatre world. You could argue that the “goes wrong” shows are running out of places to go, but they are constantly hitting the nail on the head and their productions are so slick and hilarious its easy to see why they keep filling their theatres. I am very excited to see them later on this year, and am so glad I got the chance to see Peter Pan Goes Wrong go so incredibly right.