Cringe at your memories of your childhood selves and laugh your hearts out at this riotous comedy from the makers of BBC1’s Gone Wrong Show.
Groan Ups follows the ‘yellow group’ from Bloomfield School from primary, on to secondary school, and finally an adult reunion, with a sharp farce that hides a more serious side just under the surface.
The comedy isn’t as slapstick as Mischief Theatre’s landmark Play That Goes Wrong but there are plenty of puns, from the terribly-named class hamsters to the childish malapropisms of wanting to grow up and rule the country as “prime sinister”. One early routine about how thoroughly a roving-eyed daddy tidies the bedroom with the cleaner is particularly funny.
It’s not all ‘children say the funniest things’ though: with the cruelness of bullying and the lasting challenges of anxiety and sexuality lurking at the back of the class – though never enough to put a dampener on the evening.
The main ensemble (Yolande Ovide, Dharmesh Patel, Lauren Samuels, Daniel Abbott, and Matt Cavendish) make for a convincing friendship group, but it is reunion interlopers Jamie Birkett and Paul Brown as the hired companion Chemise and mysterious former classmate Paul respectively who earn the biggest laughs.
Fly Davis’ charming sets see the furniture sized in inverse-proportion to the characters’ ages – a feeling familiar to any adult that has tried sitting in a primary school chair – and Kirsty Patrick Ward’s direction is pacey and rewarding.
For some school days are the best of your lives. This show doesn’t quite hit the gags-per-minute as hard as Mischief’s earlier works, but it’s certainly a very funny evening out for anyone who remains a kid at heart.
- Groan Ups continues at Norwich Theatre Royal until Saturday, November 20.