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Review of Peter Pan Goes Wrong at Royal & Derngate (Royal), Northampton

Having seen Mischief Theatre's phenomenal The Play That Goes Wrong three times last year, there was a strange and uncomfortable feeling at the start of Peter Pan Goes Wrong for me. Creators Henry Lewis, Jonathan Sayer and Henry Shields have come up with such a well defined collection of characters, complete with their own personal foibles (and indeed desires), that it felt sacrilege to see different people playing them. For my three viewings last year, I had been privileged to see the original cast on all occasions, so who on earth was that person playing stage manager Trevor (actually Chris Leask)? Causing the usual pre-show mayhem (this time right in front of my row), he acted and sounded the same yes, but he looked, just different. Then who on earth is this guy pretending to be director Chris Bean?

However this was my own foible because once the onstage chaos began, none of it mattered, as once again myself and the audience were carried away in a chaotic, blistering and immensely funny adventure. Presenting his Christmas vignette (not a pantomime), director Chris Bean (Laurence Pears) welcomed us to the show in front of the curtains and was this time joined by the finely bearded Robert Grove (Cornelius Booth), and an important beard that was to become. All the other favourite characters were also back in action, including poser and prancer Sandra "sick moves" Wilkinson (played gloriously over the top by Leonie Hill) and crowd favourite Max Bennett (always taking a bow Matt Cavendish). Former assistant stage manager Annie (Naomi Sheldon) is also back, this time promoted to a quick changing cast member from the outset, no longer dragging the likes of myself onstage to hold mantelpieces in place. It is a huge credit to the writers that in two single plays they have created such defined characters who even allowing for the cast changes are still all so unique and recognisable.

The ante has also been lifted in the set design with a quite incredible revolving stage. Danger, pace and lunacy could not be greater, especially when as expected there is a slight problem and it offers little wondrous windows into the lives of these larger than life characters as they strike seven bells out of one another. Much of the antics are similar to TPTGW, but I suspect that was why many were here, for more of the same. New problems were of course found from the Peter Pan material, particular with the flying. No chance was missed with this to inflict as much damage as possible on the cast members. Also a very clever scene came from Peter and Wendy's journey to the bottom of the sea. This was so good and well performed that you could genuinely see how difficult it can be to make something to appear to go so wrong. Masters were indeed at work.

Real world director Adam Meggido has created a quite incredible little feast that can never fail to delight. While performed on Simon Scullion's playground of a set, which is never far from disaster itself, this is without doubt a stunning production that uses much of the originals charm and success. While also building superbly with the characters and ideas that there must surely be a third installment soon. This is a must see and comes more highly recommended that my five stars will allow.

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Performance reviewed: Monday 23rd February, 2015 at the Royal & Derngate (Royal), Northampton.

Peter Pan Goes Wrong is on at the Royal & Derngate (Royal) until Saturday 28th February, 2015 before touring. Details can be found at Mischief Theatres website at http://www.mischieftheatre.co.uk/

For further details about the Royal & Derngate visit their website at http://www.royalandderngate.co.uk/

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