Review Roundup: Mischief Theatre Presents GROAN UPS
From the parents of The Play That Goes Wrong comes a brand-new comedy all about growing up. Are we the same people at 30 as we were at 13? Does school life determine our future? Do we ever grow out of our school crush? Playing an unruly classroom of kids and anarchic high school teenagers, through to the aches and pains of adulthood, the original Mischief company are back in the West End with their first new play since 2016.
Groan Ups will launch Mischief Theatre's residency at the Vaudeville Theatre and their programme of new work. The second production, Magic Goes Wrong, created with magic legends Penn & Teller, will preview from 14 December. Tickets for Groan Ups are on sale and can be purchased via nimaxtheatres.com and MischiefTheatre.co.uk.
Charlie Wilks, BroadwayWorld: 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.
Matt Wolf, The Arts Desk: And as Fly Davis's set morphs with the passing of the years - there's a neat sight gag involving the now grown-up Spencer and a pint-sized chair - you do come to feel for the characters, however much common sense sometimes works against the story: Archie, among other things, seems far too airily refined to be interested in the loutish Spencer, whose appeal in any case is presented via authorial fiat. Still, both actors land their climactic if overly sentimental encounter, and Bryony Corrigan is terrific as the deliciously-named Chemise (no relation to Comedy About a Bank Robbery's Caprice), whose cover is blown but not before the actress is given a scene-stealing chance to shine. What now awaits is a more keen - dare one say ruthless? - directorial eye and a pruning scissors (the post curtain call concert needs to go), at which point a sweet evening might itself morph into a lastingly memorable one, as well.
Andrzej Lukowski, Time Out New York: That it's basically well-meaning is never in doubt; neither is the fact that Mischief are terrific with a silly quip (the recurring gag about the names of the school pets is very amusing), or that they're on stronger ground whenever it becomes more farce-like. They are a fundamentally likeable bunch. But they blunder way outside their comfort zone with the child acting in the first half and again with the bittersweet dramedy stuff in the second, and it just doesn't work. And while I'm all for performers shooting for the moon, I'd argue that if you're going out of your comfort zone trying to make what's essentially a cheapo Richard Curtis knock-off, it's not a particularly noble failure.
Dominic Cavendish, The Telegraph: The script deftly unites moments broad and silly with elements wistful and serious within a simple structure: we follow the shifting relations and fortunes of five school friends, from early primary days past the terrible teens to an adult reunion.
Michael Billington, The Guardian: Mischief Theatre, who have become famous for exploiting theatrical mishaps, begin a year-long residency at the Vaudeville with a serious comedy about growing up. Instead of The Play That Goes Wrong, this is more a study of the life that goes pear-shaped. Penned by the regular actor-writer team of Henry Lewis, Jonathan Sayer and Henry Shields, it proves fitfully enjoyable but is overshadowed by works that have ploughed the same theatrical furrow.
Nick Curtis, Evening Standard: This latest brash comedy from Mischief Theatre, creators of runaway hit The Play That Goes Wrong, observes a group of schoolmates at age six and fourteen and then at a reunion in their 30s. The storyline is never less than obvious and bluntly implies that we never escape the classroom roles imposed by teachers, parents or cruel peers. It's crudely funny at times but overwhelmed by frantic histrionics and bawling. I felt like I was in detention.