Groan Ups: the play where nobody really grows up

Feb 19, 2020

Mischief Theatre, the geniuses behind the award-winning phenomenon The Play That Goes Wrong, are back and beginning their year-long residency at the Vaudeville Theatre with their inaugural production Groan Ups

Written by Mischief’s very own Henry Lewis, Jonathan Sayer and Henry Shields, the show is a comedy about – you guessed it: growing up – and follows five children as they progress through their lives. From age six to 30, audience members see Moon (Nancy Zamit), Katie (Charlie Russell), Spencer (Lewis), Simon (Sayer) and Archie (Shields) experience the ups and downs of toddlerhood, adolescence and, eventually, adult life. 

Act one follows the kids in year two. Full of clumsiness and typical childish jokes and mispronunciations (a personal favourite is Katie’s ‘prime sinister’), the first act is arguably the funniest – and the one done best. Complete with an appropriately colourful and oversized set, audience members get to know the characters best in their hilariously disastrous assembly about how they spent their weekends. 

Following a questionable scene change – think old school disco vibes but a hundred times more intense – the audience are transported to year nine. Now aged 14, the kids are up to everything kids that age get up to; you know, sneaking into school after hours, drinking, playing truth or dare. Bonds between the group continue to be made – in different ways than before – and questions over loyalty and morals become apparent, especially when it comes to the end of year exams. 

The second half of the play focuses on the group at age 30, at their school reunion. The point here is that everyone has a way in which they wish to present themselves – we all want to look like we have our act together, that we’re living the perfect life for ourselves; but that’s not really the truth. The entire group have their own ideal way of presenting themselves – some happily married, some successful in their work, some having moved on completely from the novelty of school. The reality? Nothing’s really changed. And, quite frankly, that’s the biggest take away from the show – no matter how much time passes or how much distance is between people, some things just don’t change. 

In all honesty, the show was a bit of a shambles. From pointless characters (sorry, Paul) and repetitive (and frankly not funny) jokes to the bizarre musical number at the end, it’s easy to feel exhausted leaving the theatre. Don’t get me wrong, there’s a lot of laughter – and the nostalgic references and attempts at approaching more serious issues (like, for example, the struggles of accepting your sexuality) were greatly appreciated but some bits were simply unnecessary, and unamusing. 

However, one thing that can’t be denied is the natural chemistry between the cast – it’s been 11 years since they met in drama school and it’s clear to see why they’re still going strong. So, although this production was just shy of meeting the standards of Mischief Theatre’s other work, you can’t deny that it’s a good time. 

Groan Ups runs at the Vaudeville Theatre until 1st December 2019. 

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