"This is not a pantomime," says the publicity for Peter Pan Goes Wrong. But it is a farce — and a riotous one — in which, instead of Peter Pan's traditional declaration that to die would be an awfully big adventure, it is more of an awfully big misadventure here.
But then Peter Pan was never written by JM Barrie to be performed as a panto — it's actually a rather serious, sometimes brooding and melancholic work about the pains of growing up, as it portrays the story of a boy who refuses to do so, and the loneliness of being unparented.
But somehow the story has an enduring pantomime appeal — this year in the London area there's a panto version of the story at the capital's biggest panto house the New Wimbledon Theatre, where Marcus Brigstoke is playing Hook, in a production full of jokes that, my colleague Natasha Tripney wittily put it in a review for The Stage, are "so old you could extra DNA from them and open a theme park."
There are no star names in the Cornley Polytechnic Drama Society's version of Peter Pan at the Apollo, but the glorious Mischief Theatre who have created them instead provide an obstacle course, in every sense, of theatrical mishaps that makes for the funniest night in town since One Man, Two Guvnors that likewise celebrated the anarchy of things going wrong.
It follows Mischief's Olivier Award winning (and still running) The Play That Goes Wrong, mining the identical formula of offering an evening of meticulous mayhem.
That apparent paradox — in which everything is timed to perfection to fall apart (quite literally at times) — is constantly hilarious. I don't think I've heard laughter this loud or this continuous in the theatre all year. There were seriously moments when I could barely open my eyes I was crying so hard with laughter.
Of course the rider I should enter here is that humour is a very personal thing, and it may not strike your funny bone with the same force that it did mine. But you can't fail to be impressed with a show in which even the spectacular sets seems to have a life entirely of its own.
And the hilarious original company founders and regulars of Mischief Theatre, newly joined by the Tony nominated star of One Man Two Gunners Tom Edden as a deadpan narrator, give it a manic and apparently fearless physicality.
"Everyone loves a theatrical disaster, and Neverland provides an ideal environment for the combination of slapstick and thespian chagrin..."
Jane Shillling for The Telegraph
"Directed by Adam Meggido, this is a slicker affair than The Play That Goes Wrong, and has the added bonus of the presence of Tom Edden as a narrator constantly upstaged by his chair."
Lyn Gardner for The Guardian