Slapstick with a wink – this tightly-choreographed carnage is a crowd-pleaser if nothing else.
The title very much hits the nail on the head, but Joe Public continually seems unsure of what to expect from a Play That Goes Wrong.
The answer is this: the actors are playing actors within a fictional staged production that quickly turns into a set-demolishing disaster.
But when you break it down it sounds complicated, so essentially: this is a performance of Peter Pan in which anything and everything goes wrong.
And why does it go so wrong?
Well it’s not for the Cornley Polytechnic Drama Society’s lack of trying.
Sure, they may be the biggest bunch of amateurs you’ve ever seen, but they’re so determined to get to the end of this production of Peter Pan that they will plough on regardless of how many limbs have been broken, cast members have fallen from high-tension wires, or crocodiles have walked off-stage in humiliation.
It’s slapstick farce, but with enough sophistication to keep Julie from Wilmslow on side: The outlandish situation our actors find themselves in is often juxtaposed ironically with the lines of the script they’re currently up to.
For example, Wendy saying “Peter… it’s beautiful” just so happens to fall the moment after the industrial fairy lights on Tinkerbell’s skirt blows all the power and plunges us into darkness. What are the chances?
Peter Pan Goes Wrong was devised by Mischief Theatre, who were responsible for the original The Play That Goes Wrong.
You don’t need to see one to appreciate the other. If anything, seeing both might be overkill – they’re identical in style. If I had to choose, I’d go with the original, as I think the joke is sustained better there with more variation and extremities.
It wears a bit thin towards the end here – I think every single actor has their clothes ripped off or is knocked out at some point.
But the highs are high: an improvised song to cover up the sound of a drill?
You can’t stop that from being funny.
This is an undeniable crowd-pleaser in which audience participation is so appropriate because there is no fourth-wall (unlike some recent Lowry productions I must say – rowdy memories of Rita, Sue and Bob Too still linger eight months on…).
The suspension of rationality that must be bought into by an audience means we will go along with literally anything: genuine sound-level issues aren’t worth questioning when a cast member has a pair of scissors lodged in his leg.
A final set piece on a well-utilised rotating stage drags the story of Peter Pan kicking and screaming to a conclusion, whether we want it or not. The show, after all, must go on.
The Play That Goes Wrong runs at the Lowry from 3rd to 7th December.
Tickets can be bought by calling the box office on 0343 208 6011 or by visiting https://thelowry.com/whats-on/peter-pan-goes-wrong/
A donation from every ticket sold is given to Great Ormond Street Hospital.