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Peter Pan Goes Wrong at the Apollo review – ‘blissful comic timing’

Peter Pan Goes Wrong at the Apollo Theatre, London. Photo: Tristram Kenton Peter Pan Goes Wrong at the Apollo Theatre, London. Photo: Tristram Kenton

Actors dry – and some shows die — on stage quite often. It can be a deeply uncomfortable experience to watch, as anyone who was witness to the summer press night of Educating Rita at Chichester when Lenny Henry had to leave the stage when he lost his way will testify.

But in Peter Pan Goes Wrong, both the drying and the dying are an awfully big (mis)adventure, and deliberately so: the only discomfort is the one provoked by acute, unstoppable laughter. The show provides the glorious paradox of watching things going wrong, instead of right, as if by clockwork. It is timed to implode and explode with expert precision.

That’s by no means an easy task, but Mischief Theatre — who previously created the now long-running Olivier Award winning West End hit The Play That Goes Wrong that continues to play at the Duchess — pull it off with ingenuity and irresistible inventiveness. Co-written by the company’s artistic director Henry Lewis,  Jonathan Sayer and Henry Shields, who all star with regular company members Charlie Russell, Dave Hearn, Chris Leask, Greg Tannahill and Nancy Wallinger, plus newcomers Tom Edden and Ellie Morris, the show is a stunning ensemble effort and triumph of making the effortful look effortless.

There’s another deliberately inexpert player beside them: Simon Scullion’s sets, which seem to have a life entirely of their own, execute mishaps and missteps (in every sense) with blissful comic timing. No wonder the programme carries credits for health and safety, stunt and pyrotechnic consultants.

It spins what is essentially a one-joke show about the relentless catastrophe of a live performance into a dizzying, dazzling display of meta-theatrical brilliance.

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The audience cheers and colludes with this irresistible show from first laugh to last gasp; it is the happiest comedy night in town since One Man Two Guvnors