When Mischief Theatre announced a year-long residency at the Vaudeville in London, I was intrigued and determined to see as much of the output as possible. I’ve previously seen their plays and pantos and bank robberies that go wrong, and consider myself officially obsessed with this comedy troupe. The first of three shows wraps up this weekend, and I just managed to catch Groan Ups “before term ended”.
Unlike The Play That Goes Wrong and the other shows, which are basically non-stop slapstick comedy, Groan Ups is character-driven, with a story that tracks the lives of five friends from about 6 years old, to 14, and then to adulthood.
It’s still hilarious and there’s still farcical elements to it all, but most of the humour comes from the situations and the references rather than people getting hit in the face with doors. (Always funny, don’t get me wrong.) And because we spend more time with these characters and get to know them better, we really care about them as the heart of the story unfolds.
I’ll be honest, I thought the second half was far superior to the first. I don’t really like kids, so I wasn’t unhappy when the first section was over. And the teenager years were good but really contained most of the setup for what happens after the interval.
Once the kids have turned into the Groan Ups, that’s when everything really hit its stride. I loved the jokes that weaved in and out, the clever moments that were set up so much earlier, and the less sophisticated running jokes like continuously squishing hamsters. By the end, you’re so invested in these crazy fools, you just want a happy ending - which isn’t possible and doesn’t happen, but we get the next best thing.
These are such a talented bunch of people. I wish I could recommend everyone to go and see this show, but today is it’s last outing. Next up, the group are bringing Magic Goes Wrong to the Vaudeville and I’m already booked in despite a distinct aversion to any magic that isn’t Harry Potter. I can’t wait, the obsession continues!