Marlowe Theatre, Canterbury
Cornley Polytechnic Drama Society’s Peter Pan pantomime, sorry… ‘traditional vignette’ at the Marlowe Theatre was buzzing with energy even before the curtain went up.
It seems that Director Chris Bean’s (Laurence Pears) vision for this classic play is doomed from the get-go as he presents the society’s new revolving stage only to explain why most of the Lost Boys were sadly indisposed.
With hopeless stage hands, an accident-prone cast, countless missed cues and a set that started to fall apart piece by piece during the performance, you have a recipe for a well-crafted comedy.
The madness begins with toddler Michael Darling played by “mature student” Robert Grove (Cornelius Booth), complete with a bushy beard.
His brother John (James Marlowe) only added to the troubles of this disastrous cast as he struggled to remember his lines. This wasn’t helped by his state of the art earpiece, which frequently fell victim to radio channels or the police scanner, causing him to make random outbursts of nonsense.
Wendy played by Sandra Wilkinson (Leonie Hill) was obviously chasing an Olivier award with her performance as she tried her hardest to outrageously over-act the part, ploughing on despite the mishaps that riddled the show.
The sheer energy of Annie Twilloil (Naomi Sheldon) is admirable and only lends itself to the comic genius of this play as she runs from being Mrs Darling, to Lisa the maid, to Tinker Bell, to Tiger Lily, to Cecco the pirate and back. All the while failing to adapt her accent to each individual character, with the exception of Lisa the maid who was given a stereotypical cockney accent.
I’ve never seen anything like it, doors stick, beds collapse and Tinker Bell is electrocuted. The jokes are simple, sure, but the physical comedy alone in this show is just incredible.
There’s not a weak link among this troupe of actors and a huge amount of credit must go to director Adam Meggido. The play gives an affectionate nod to the like of Fawlty Towers, One Man Two Guvnors and Monty Python but very much holds its own.
The effects to create this calamity were impressive from falling scenery to electronic explosions – a triumph of technical wizardry.
Peter’s flying, however, leaves much to be desired as he crashes through the walls of the set leaving our hero with a concussion and a rather nasty head wound. The role almost seemed like a poisoned chalice as even the understudy got a thrashing in his short-lived moment of fame.
The use of the audience was a nice touch and really helped with bringing attention to the plight of Max Bennett (Matt Cavendish), a grinning simpleton who has only been cast as the crocodile because his uncle helped pay for the production.
Peter Pan Goes Wrong offers fun for all the family and leaves you falling off your seat with laughter.
If you’re a fan of slapstick and the ridiculous, then this is the ticket for you.
Peter Pan Goes Wrong is playing at the The Marlowe Theatre until 17 January.