THE job of following on from a very successful person or event in entertainment or sport is often a poisoned chalice. Sequels can be and often are a great let-down. Philip King and Falkland L Carey’s Watch It Sailor, which followed their runaway success with Sailor Beware, was decidedly disappointing. Films and TV are littered with expensive sequel failures – and you only have to look at the long list of talented mangers who have come and gone without success at Manchester United since the retirement of Sir Alex Ferguson to know how difficult a job it is to replicate his success.
To say that Peter Pan Goes Wrong, the second in the Mischief company’s “goes wrong” series, does not quite match up to its predecessor The Play that Goes Wrong, is hardly surprising, and definitely not meant as a harsh criticism. Nearly ten years after it was first seen, it still generates more laughter per square stage foot then the vast majority of new comedies doing the rounds.
Although the dialogue, particularly Jack Michael Stacey’s (Mr Darling and Captain Hook) long running battle to convince an audience, egged on by Matthew Howell (Nana, Peter’s Shadow and Starkey), that they are trying to present a play and not a pantomime, garners plenty of response, most of the spoken word produces smiles rather than the raucous laughter gained from mime.
You fear for the safety of the actors as Gareth Tempest – and for a briefer spell Jake Burgum – as Peter Pan do not (to borrow a quote from Monty Python), fly, so much as plummet, as they hurtle onto and demolish much of the set. When the unstable scenery is not being attacked by the actors, it is having its own revenge descending on Rosemarie Akwafo’s deliciously stage- frightened Tootles. At the end it collapses altogether, and miraculously, thanks to good discipline from the players and careful positioning by the director Adam Meggido, the entire company escape intact to fight another day.
And you need the whole company, because this is very much a team effort, on and off stage, Their performances have to dovetail as smoothly as the near misses with the scenery if their anarchic comedy is to hit the bulls-eye. Theo Toksvig-Stewart and Clark Devlin, two decidedly over-aged Michael and John Darlings, also appear as two Mermaids, the crocodile and Mr Smee. Ciara Morris (Wendy) fights a wonderful losing battle to retain her dignity, even when unwillingly stripped of most of her clothes, and Jean-Luke Worrell is on an equally losing streak as he finds his attempts to narrate the story are constantly under attack from a self-willed chair suffering from an electrical fault.
However, nothing can stop the formidable Jamie Birkett’s Mrs Darling from singing her children to sleep with a lullaby. Having already impressed with a lovely piece of quick-change comedy as Mrs Darling and her maid Lisa, and later producing a Lysistrata-like Tinker Bell, she fought her way through collapsing beds, stage hands freeing Nana from the door with a chain saw, and many more extraneous noises, to end her lullaby on the sweetest and perfect high note. All of which adds up to a more than adequate sequel to a very successful first play that “went wrong.”
Photographs by Pamela Raith Photography.