If you happen to be of the opinion that theatre going is too highbrow a habit for you, welcome to the show that will not only change your mind, it will give you a good night out, too. And it’s suitable for children from 5 to 95 and beyond.
While it may not be challenging to the intellect (once you have absorbed the notion that this is a play about an amateur theatre company staging a production of Peter Pan, and the “Youth” part of Cornley Youth Theatre may have been true a generation ago, but sure isn’t now) it is two hours of hysterically silly entertainment.
It would have been all too easy for this to have been a simple rehash of many send-ups that have gone before, but script and direction – along with a brilliantly-conceived set and a tireless cast who work at a ridiculously high speed throughout, come together to provide a show that never lets its standards drop for a second.
The jokes are mainly visual and in the slapstick tradition and require split-second timing – in some cases to ensure that the cast remain injury-free. Nonetheless, I suspect they all will have their share of bumps and bruises as a result of the scenery “malfunctions” and flight mishaps.
Although I was aware it had picked up an Olivier award for “Best New Comedy”, I was not as familiar with the format (or maybe I’m just slower on the uptake than the kids…?) as most of the audience, who entered into the spirit of the show in true pantomime fashion: “This is not a pantomime!” bellows Hook to the instant rejoinder of “Oh yes it is!” and the muttered “We could have gone to Glasgow, you know” met with “Oh no you couldn’t!”
As disaster follows disaster, not helped by the inadvertent broadcast of a soundcheck that reveals more than some members of the cast would have liked, CYT’s show falls apart completely, while the real production holds together superbly. It would have been easy, too, to make the whole thing an exercise in laughing and pointing at amateur companies, but the writers don’t stoop to that, and it is played with a genuine affection throughout.
Oh, and get yourself a copy of the programme while you’re at it – there’s a good few more chuckles in that.