Monday, December 6

Groan Ups: The Mischief Company

- November 25, 2021

Purveyors of fine farce and balletic blundering, The Mischief Company are one of the great successes of recent theatre and their acclaim is well deserved. Groan Ups is their latest offering and moves away for the “goes wrong” format to deliver a tale of growing up and the true nature of friendship. It starts in front of the curtain with the main characters as infants delivering a side splitting school assembly performance of “what we did at the weekend”. Surely we all remember being tasked with such an exercise as children? However these five kiddies stray from the rehearsed script and deliver a very telling series of stories that say as much about their parents and families as about themselves.

When the  curtain rises we see them in the classroom, a set built to a scale so that everything is huge, and as they get older that set is duly reduced in scale, the clever stuff that we have come to expect from Mischief productions.

As the stories unfold the true nature of each of those characters is explored. Katie is the serious one, the scholar and perhaps the kindest. Spencer is the hyperactive one and seen as the class “Thicky”, Moon is the arrogant one, the spoilt brat, Archie the sweet kid who likes to dress up, especially in his mum’s bras, and Simon is the weak and unforgettable boy who becomes the class whipping boy. Here we see them form their initial bonds and friendships but the usual “mischief” mischief is peppered with sadness.

The next time we see them they are 14 and those bonds have grown but are now distorted by the arrival, or late arrival, of puberty and the cruelty of young adults that so many of us will recognise, bullying to be frank.

In the final act the class have returned to school for a ten year re-union and the laughs come thick and fast as those childhood traits re-emerge in force. Each of the characters playing out unfulfilled stories and failings. The comedy is beautifully delivered but the whole is tinged with sadness and regret, a finely balanced tale beautifully played out by the cast who are now joined by two external characters, the lunacy of Paulus Walrus, who nobody can remember and the brilliant Chemise who has some of the best moments and lines of the whole evening which she delivers with comic precision and facial expressions that are sublimely funny.

It’s a good play, beautifully written and touchingly told but if I am to be fully honest, it lacks pace at the centre only gathering speed after the interval. Some of this of course is due to a technical issue that halted proceedings, but mainly it is due to the need for a major set and costume change at he centre of the first half. It’s a minor quibble, this company are by a long chalk one of the sharpest and funniest companies to have emerged over the last ten years.

Andrew Kay

24 November

Theatre Royal Brighton

Rating: ★★★★☆

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