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Review: Peter Pan Goes Wrong at Newcastle Theatre Royal

Professional actors play amateur actors striving to do justice to JM Barrie's classic tale - and failing at every twist and turn

Alastair Muir Peter Pan Goes Wrong
Peter Pan Goes Wrong

Peter Pan Goes Wrong, Newcastle Theatre Royal until Saturday

Members of Cornley Polytechnic Drama Society are presenting Peter Pan and are determined to do justice to JM Barrie’s classic tale of pirates, crocodiles and ‘lost boys’.

They are also determined not to see a repeat of past mistakes.

Already there are divisions at the top, with Robert Grove – bushy-bearded, wild-eyed – styling himself co-director to the annoyance of director Chris Bean, a man whose grip is loosening before our eyes.

Of past mistakes there have been many – even the odd fatality (Robert will insist on parking in the ambulance bay). The odds are stacked against them.

This is, of course, a play within a play. It comes from the same young team whose Play That Goes Wrong (based on the similar conceit of a shambolic murder mystery) is a hit in the West End.

With affectionate cruelty they home in on the earnest endeavour and limited resources of amateur dramatic societies the nation over, making it the substance of their very professional and very funny comedy.

It is very British and rather old fashioned. There is a lot of slapstick – even what you might call aerial slapstick – and that word ‘Polytechnic’ has a late 20th Century ring to it.

In the Cornley world, if something can malfunction, it will do so; if someone can trip, he or she will end up on the floor. When the technician drops his beer on the sound deck, all sorts of gremlins are unleashed.

And if the actor playing the crocodile is a bit rubbish, it’s because a rich relative bought his place in the cast with a big donation to the budget.

The programme gives us two casts, those of Cornley and Mischief Theatre. So Chris Bean (who also plays Mr Darling and finally goes over the edge as Hook) is really Laurence Pears, Robert Grove (parrotless pirate and shaggy stand-in for one of the Darling children) is Cornelius Booth and Wendy Darling is played by Sandra Wilkinson who is played by Leonie Hill.

And I especially liked Sandra/Leonie’s hyper-choreographed performance. Wendy never walks when a pirouette will do.

The real director, who must have a very cool head, is Adam Meggido.

It is probably the case, this being a professional show on tour, that nobody gets hurt during a performance. But I wouldn’t want to bet on it. I got hurt just laughing.


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