Groan Ups is a hilarious triumph full of relatable childhood characters and A-grade laughs

The cast of Groan Ups, which is coming to Cambridge Arts Theatre.

The cast of Groan Ups, which is coming to Cambridge Arts Theatre. - Credit: Pamela Raith Photography

Mischief Theatre have done it again: Groan Ups is a hilarious triumph full of brilliantly thought-out and relatable characters, 90s/2000s nostalgia and an endless stream of A-grade laugh-out-loud moments...

With the school logo shining on the curtain and a chair on either side of the stage, the action begins quickly with the ding of a school bell. 

Almost instantly, hilarity ensues and continues for the two-hour-plus duration.

The way each of the five protagonists is introduced during their primary school years is cleverly done, with a funny “and that’s what I did this weekend” set piece that manages to succinctly convey their personalities and back stories.

Groan Ups cast, The Lowry

Moving from childhood through teens to adulthood, Groan Ups takes us on a journey of laughter and pain - Credit: Pamela Raith

And, with each of them, there are plenty of traits that will be easily identifiable to those in the audience; whether they had a friend like that growing up, or if they see themselves reflected in one of those onstage.

From spoilt brat Moon (Yolanda Ovide, a real standout) to unfairly picked-on Simon (Matt Cavendish), class clown Spencer (Dharmesh Patel), theatrical Archie (Daniel Abbott) and nervously-flirty Katie (Lauren Samuels), the narrative unfolds naturally. 

As the action moves to the early naughties, the audience then gets see them as typical teenagers (at turns stroppy, loved-up and just trying to fit in).

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What’s most impressive is that, through a web of subplots - i.e. who fancies who and who certainly doesn’t - the plot is weaved together.

Every joke lands - from the celebrity-referencing classroom pets to the Nokia ringtones and spot-on choice of teen language/mannerisms.

Groan Ups, the Lowry, Chemise

The final act takes place at a school reunion, where regrets and reminiscences provide for much laughter - Credit: Pamela Raith

Although slower-paced at times, the second act - which finds the friends back together a few years later for their school reunion - throws in some new characters (Killian Macardle and Jamie Birkett are brilliant as Paul and Chemise) while dialling up the physical humour.

The result is that it feels more like watching one of The Play That Goes Wrong’s TV shows, though the slapstick humour is balanced with an emotive undercurrent that runs through thanks to existential subtexts and the deeper subjects that are covered.

Having watched the main characters go from six-year-olds to teenagers to adulting (both regretful and reminiscent), it effectively shows how much our formative years go onto influence the adults we become.

‘Groan Ups’ is at the Cambridge Arts Theatre until Saturday with performances at 2.30pm and 7.30pm. Book tickets via the website.

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