The Cornley Polytechnic Drama Society have returned to Sydney, which may be a surprise to some considering the rather disastrous turn of events in their last production, The Murder at Haversham Manor. Now, they’re back thanks to a sizeable donation from the Uncle of one of the cast members, Max, and here to present their take on the J.M. Barrie classic Peter Pan. I’m devastated to report that this amateur production once again has fallen foul of professionalism, with actors having to be fed dialogue, actual on stage electrocution, an inability to fly and real life drama finding its way into the on stage action. Not even the hiring of Playschool’s Jay Laga’aia could save this adaptation from being a literal sinking ship. But the Alligator was great.
You know, whether it was the Lunchbox Theatrical Productions/Mischief Theatre production of The Play That Goes Wrong or its follow up Peter Pan That Goes Wrong, which opened the Sydney leg of its tour this week, its hard not to get caught up in all the play-within-a-play action. Once again, the fictional amateur drama society have delivered a hilarious show where everything goes wrong with a rather masterful stroke. At the heart of this is brilliant staging and direction from Adam Meggido, clever lighting from Matthew Hawkins and incredible sets from Simon Scullion. For everything to go so wrong, all the work they do has to go oh so right. And a clever script from Jonathan Sayer, Henry Shields and Henry Lewis doesn’t hurt either. But none of that is worth a grain of salt if the cast aren’t able to craft the timing of the show’s spitfire dialogue and Chaplin-Esque slapstick comedy.
The cast features a number of returning players from the original Australian production of The Play Goes Wrong, which toured here in 2017, and their timing, play with the audience (which is utilised even more than it was by its predecessor), and general likability makes this show incredibly watchable. George Kemp once again steals the show with his inept character Dennis, unable to tell dialogue without a prompt (the action of which had me in stitches). Adam Dunn, Darcy Brown and Francine Cain all reprise their roles, too, while Jay Laga’aia serves as one of the new editions to the cast – and their use of him (and some other classic Australian references), help localise the show well.
For those who have seen The Play That Goes Wrong, you’re going to be looking forward to much of the same humour from the original production; and in that way Peter Pan… does lose out on some of the surprise of the original (a risk of any sequel). And to compensate, the makers really have cranked everything up to 11 – quite literally, with moving stage parts, flying actors and a world of technical marvel that would have sat as well in Chaplin’s Modern Times as it does here on the Lyric Theatre stage.
The show is full of charm and wit and even though it hits a lot of the same notes as its predecessor – albeit with a more colourful palate – there is little not to love about the production. Clever staging, some well placed Australian references (which I won’t spoil here) and some over-the-top yet lovable characters, can’t help but leave you rooting for everyone to get to the finish line. And thanks to a surprising amount of audience participation, and excellent timing by the cast, even in the brief moments when the belly-aching laughter had stopped, it was impossible to wipe the grin from your face. Peter Pan Goes Wrong is a truly enjoyable theatrical experience and not to be missed.
FOUR STARS (OUT OF FIVE)
Peter Pan Goes Wrong performs at the Lyric Theatre in Sydney until 3rd March. For tickets and more details head HERE.