Following their incredible success with smash hit comedies The Play That Goes Wrong, The Comedy About a Bank Robbery, Peter Pan Goes Wrong and The Goes Wrong Show on BBC One, the multi award-winning Mischief return to the stage with their brand-new comedy all about growing up.
In essence, GROAN UPS is about five classmates, who we join on their journey through a 25 year period of their lives. The show is at the New Theatre in Cardiff this week, and we spent a very enjoyable couple of hours watching it on opening night.
We meet the ‘kids’ at primary school assembly, when they each do the ‘what I did at the weekend’ thing we were all subjected to at some point during our school life. Although the curtain was closed, the two over sized school chairs either side of the stage set the tone, and added to the illusion of five fully formed actors playing six year old children.
Although quite a lengthy scene in front of the curtains, it was necessary to help us understand the characters backgrounds and home life, and to be fair, it was really funny – in a six year old kind of way.
From there we went on their journey to the teenage years, and all that goes with being fourteen – drinking, snogging, believing we are much cooler than we really are, and on a more serious note, not thinking about the long term repercussions of our childish actions.
Yolanda Ovide is the hyper-confident Moon, expecting everyone to do as she says, like any true ‘Pretend Princess’ would. The class clown Spencer, played by Darmesh Patel, is the joker of the group, funny and charming, but also incredibly brave (he steals Smarties from the teachers desk). Lauren Samuels is Katie, the pupil who always does well and has University firmly in her sights.
Archie (Daniel Abbott) is all about pleasing his folks but also a bit of an achiever as he’s been moved up a class. And Simon played by Matt Cavendish is the put upon class geek who will do anything to be an accepted part of the group – including entertaining the school hamster and fish – we’ll leave that to your imagination.
Although not part of the ‘five’ I must mention Jamie Birkett and Killian Macardle. They pop up a few times, as different characters. In the first half they are teachers who do a little assembly scene between the first two acts, which is funny, and a welcome bit of adult behaviour after the primary school introduction.
But they really come into their own in the second half, with occasional scene stealing performances as ‘Paul’ (who the hell is Paul) and Chemise, who really does shine bright. In fact it’s fair to say they both grabbed the most laughter from the audience.
It’s not that the rest of the cast aren’t funny, they are, it’s just we spend more time playing catch up with each of our characters lives, post schooldays.
By now, they are in their thirties and meeting up at the school reunion. The sometimes exaggerated tales of jobs, wives, cars, and houses dominate the first part of the act, till truths start to be revealed and emotions run high.
The writers, Henry Lewis, Jonathan Sayer, and Henry Shields have come up with a show which has all the elements of a Mischief piece, silly and sometimes slapstick, but in Groan Ups they’ve given the characters real heart and soul, and it’s this depth that makes us grow to love the gang of five.
You will absolutely laugh out loud, the New Theatre audience did, and a lot. But once you get past the pooh and pee jokes, the mischief and mayhem and incredibly skilled slapstick talents of the cast, you will be left feeling totally invested in the characters and their lives.
The journey, people and situations will feel familiar and bring back a sense of nostalgia. Or maybe your kids are still at the age where you are going through the primary or teen years with them, whichever it is, you will feel a part of this story.
Everything you remember about schooldays – but choose to forget, is lovingly brought back through the show. School crushes, drinking weird and wonderful concoctions to try and become the ‘cool kid’, and of course, no story would be complete without the embarrassing parents.
We never like to give too much away during our reviews, but there are things in the show you should really watch out for.
We love the clever use of the set, and ever shrinking school chairs, which help show the passing of time. The ‘Spacehopper’ (remember those), plays its own role in this. There’s also a nice, almost throw away touch, with a real camera taking pictures of the group. And special mention to the class hamster. Listen out for its ever-changing name over the years, it also helps place the story in the right era.
As I watched ‘Groan Ups’ I was reminded of people I went to school with. The cool girl who no one dared talk to, but we all carried out her bidding (me). The geeky kid who tried to fit in with any group who would give him the time of day (me). The classmates who never seemed to try very hard to be as bright as a button (not me).
This familiarity really helps the show, but throw in a load of laughs, a terrific cast, and a hamster everyone has a crush on, and you have the perfect ingredients for a great night out.
It’s a really nice way to spend a couple of hours and we guarantee you’ll leave the theatre craving a pack of Starbursts, or do we mean Opal Fruits?
Any Mischief show always sells out fast, so we suggest you get in now to see it when it at the New Theatre in Cardiff this week. GROAN UPS is here through to Saturday 16th October. The show starts at 7:30pm with 2:30pm matinees on Thursday and Saturday.
Tickets range from £16.50 to £32.50 and you can get your HERE.
The show runs around 2 hours 20 mins including an interval.
ALL PHOTOS BY PAMELA RAITH.
And if you want an evening out at the New Theatre, here’s a few more ideas. Take a look at our features.