BWW Review: GROAN UPS, Vaudeville Theatre
Having never seen a Mischief Theatre show before, it's safe to say I was very excited to attend the premiere of their new piece last night. You might recognise their work from the highly acclaimed, critical hits The Play That Goes Wrong and The Comedy About A Bank Robbery. The pair have been playing on the West End for quite some years, and I predict Groan Ups may also become a permanent fixture to the district's programming.
The story bases itself around a few people's development from children to adults, tracking them all the way from Year Two. When we first meet them they tell us what they did over the weekend. One played with the nanny, another tried on his mum's bra, and Spencer, the rowdiest of the five, took a very big and very smelly poo. Their delivery of this sequence is pretty delightful. It's full of play, joy and humour.
It's clear that this company are experts at physical comedy. Everything seems timed to perfection and nobody appears to miss a beat. From the very first joke, right to the last, there is so much laughter coming from the audience. For any Nineties kid watching the show, there's a definite feeling of nostalgia in the room. Alexandra Faye Braithwaite's sound composition throws so many pop classics at you, and all you want to do is get up and dance.
The children-turned-adults are superb. Henry Lewis, Charlie Russell, Jonathan Sayer and Henry Shields offer so much to each other, being very generous with their stage action. Their instincts are spot on and the playfulness coming from each of them makes the two and a half hours fly by. If anything, you want much more. However, it is Bryony Corrigan who steals the show as the Geordie actor-pretend-wife Chamise. She is nothing short of extraordinary - her over-the-top gestures and mannerisms make you howl with laughter.
But for me, where Groan Ups really smashes it is with how it subtly hits you in all the feels. Lewis, Sayer and Shield's writing reveals the kid that was bullied, making you instantly remember who that person was in your school. There's also a love story, which is well thought out and truthful. I knew it was going to be funny, and I was actually crying with laughter towards the end, but at the same time I never expected it to be so tragic. This added layer gives the whole piece so much more authenticity.
As I said, I was a first time Mischief Theatre-goer, but after last night, I am a huge fan. With their next show Magic Goes Wrong - in partnership with Penn and Teller - coming to the West End next year, I await this with much eagerness.
Photo: Robert Day