Well, no one can claim they don’t warn you in the title.
This is Peter Pan as it has never been performed on stage before. A riotous, mischievous mixture of laughter, slapstick and immaculately-timed shenanigans that induces tears of laughter and aching ribs.
And it’s not just the audience who experience the latter, for the energetic members of Mischief Theatre - male and female - put themselves through so many painful-looking stunts on stage that they must surely be left with a multitude of bruises after each performance!
It may seem an odd idea to put on a pantomime in the middle of May. But there is a very good explanation as extenuating circumstances have forced the ‘Cornley Polytechnic Drama Society’ to delay their Christmas show. And, in any case, as director Chris Bean is eager to emphasise before curtain up, Peter Pan is not a panto, it’s a ‘seasonal vignette’.
Whatever you want to call it, this is a gloriously irreverent, tongue-in-cheek take on the classic J M Barrie tale of the boy who never grows up.
There have been numerous stage and film versions of Peter Pan, of course. And there’s nothing new about the idea of a play in which everything that can go amiss does go amiss - Victoria Wood did it with Acorn Antiques and the Mischief Theatre crew themselves have enjoyed a huge West End Success with The Play That Goes Wrong. But no one has ever attempted to do it with this much-loved story of the Darling children and their adventures in Neverland.
It’s possibly the most visual, most cleverly put together stage comedy I’ve ever witnessed. The humour comes thick and fast, managing never to slip into the puerile, and there are elements of the craziness of Fawlty Towers, the wackiness of Spamalot and the anarchic violence of Bottom.
What’s more there is nothing offensive about the production and everyone will enjoy the ridiculousness of it all, from 10-year-olds to grandparents.
At the conclusion it’s difficult to know who is the most shattered, the actors who have given their all, or the audience who have hardly had time to draw breath in between roaring with laughter.
Everything is played out on a revolving stage, which only adds to the chaos, and the sets are lovingly recreated versions of the sort that take shape in theatres around the land as panto season approaches.
The 15-strong cast give their all, with several required to take on more than one role - in Naomi Sheldon’s case no less than four separate characters, with the only-to-be-expected confusion of costume changes.
Back stage members of the ‘production team’ are unwittingly embroiled in much of the action as they endeavour to help the show along and their involvement creates many of the chaotic highlights.
The programme - a clever spoof on the type of glossy publication produced for professional pantos - requires careful study as there are two cast lists, one for the fictitious Polytechnic Drama Society and the other detailing the real-life actors who comprise its members. (Hope you’re keeping up as there will be questions later).
Such a show requires pinpoint timing from the actors and technical staff. The last thing anyone wants is something to go wrong in a play about everything going wrong.
The on-stage mayhem is a joy to beyhold, though quite what the foreign tourists in the Theatre Royal will make of this gently-rebellious version of an oh-so-British tradition is another matter!
One thing is sure. No one who witnesses this show will ever see panto or even a ‘seasonal vignette’ in the same light again.
So if you want to know why a bearded, middle-aged old hippy is playing a schoolboy, why Captain Hook doesn’t appreciate the ‘behind you’ shouts from the audience and why three different actors end up playing the main role, fly along to enjoy this marvellous theatrical adventure for yourself.
Oh, and make sure you arrive well before the curtain goes up. You’ll find out why!
Peter Pan Goes Wrong is at the Theatre Royal, Windsor, until Saturday May 23. Contact the box office on 01753 853888 or www.theatreroyalwindsor.co.uk.