Conceived in 2008 by students at the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Arts and nourished during an Edinburgh Fringe Festival, the Olivier Award winning Mischief Theatre has made being silly into a sincere mission. Their Goes Wrong… series has won dedicated fans around the English-speaking world. Fortunately for those who don’t have one of their creations nearby, several of their plays are available for streaming. Just added to the line-up is Peter Pan Goes Wrong, the kind of crowd pleaser that gets nominated for three Broadway.com Audience Choice Awards.
The performance on BroadwayHD originally aired on BBC1 on New Years Eve of 2016. It features David Suchet as the narrator, a role currently portrayed by Neil Patrick Harris in the Broadway production that was inspired by this special. Using five cameras, the show was filmed in front of a very enthusiastic and in-the-know live audience. Director Dewi Humphreys made use of the television studio setting to add comedic elements. Close-ups that reinforce the physical gags are the trade-off for not being able to take in the entire stage. The colorful staging earned a lighting award for designer Martin Kempton.
A zesty example of Mischief’s body of work, Pan stars David Hearn, Henry Lewis, Charlie Russell, Jonathan Sayer, Henry Shield, and Nancy Zamit who are still with the company. Current members in smaller roles are Harry Kershaw, Bryony Corrigan and Mike Brodie. The ensemble is rounded out by Chris Leask, Ellie Morris, Adam Meegido (who directed the original stage version), Greg Tannahill. It is hard to single out any one performer since they are so interdependent. But my admiration is boundless for Zamit who flies through more than just Tinkerbell with the aid of break-away costumes by Roberto Surace. Songs by Mischief’s Rob Falconer and Richard Baker remind us of the shear talent of this troupe.
Mischief members Henry Lewis, Jonathan Sayer, and Henry Shields liberally adapted J.M. Barrie’s story of the boy who wouldn’t grow up. Their loose interpretation opens backstage where Suchet introduces us to the fictional Cornley Drama Society mockumentary style, providing background for jokes that will unfold over the course of the show. Some of the well-known story elements remain: Peter Pan comes to the Darlings’ home to retrieve his shadow. The children fly away with him to Neverland where the nasty Captain Hook seeks revenge for the loss of his hand to a crocodile. But as the piece’s title would suggest, the production is plagued by issues from actors who forget their lines to designer Harry Banks’s fanciful sets that don’t work as intended. It is quite a feat to pretend to be so terrible while being genuinely funny. Even when you sense a set-up, the pay-off is always somewhere to the left of what you expected. Several bits have their origins in “panto,” a comedic British theatrical form that uses well-known fairytales and encourages the audience to shout out to the players. Some reactions were practiced, but one particularly witty off-the-cuff heckle was left in the final cut.
With a run-time of just over an hour and an emphasis on physical humor, Peter Pan Goes Wrong is a true family entertainment. Also available on BroadwayHD are The Goes Wrong Show —12 half hour episodes — and A Christmas Carol Goes Wrong co-starring the magnificent Diana Rigg and Derek Jacobi. You can learn more at https://www.broadwayhd.com/categories/recently-added.