five pupils

Daniel Abbot as Archie and Yolanda Ovide as Moon with Dharmesh Patel as Spencer and Lauren Samuels as Katie watching Matt Cavendish's Simon proving dancing is another talent he missed out on. Pictures: Pamela Raith

Groan Ups

Malvern Theatres


Groan Ups, first produced in 2019, was a new development for Mischief Theatre, the company famous for creating The Play That Goes Wrong and its subsequent variations.

For a start, the scenery remains erect and the props more-or-less intact throughout but that is no disappointment; the company gives us a joyous evening of character-based comedy packed with jokes and physical mayhem.

This is not a play about a play: it follows five six-year-olds through their school journey and into adult life. Will nature or nurture prevail as they grow up?

We first meet Year 2 Yellow Group in a ‘What I Did at the Weekend’ session, their childish honesty revealing their basic characters and rather more about their home lives than their parents would appreciate.

There is Katie, the bossy swot (Lauren Samuels); Moon, a spoilt Daddy’s girl (Yolanda Ovide); Archie, the bright, precocious one (Daniel Abbot); Spencer, cheerful but accident-prone (Dharmesh Patel); and Simon, destined to be bullied (Matt Cavendish). They may be stereotypes but this sets the bar for their future development.

They bounce around their cheerful classroom with the scaled-up doors and furniture (great sets and detail from designer, Fly Davis) getting up to mischief when unseen teacher, Miss Murray (Jamie Birkett) pops out for a quick wine break.

spencer and rent a bride

Lover boy Simon with his rent-a-girlfriend Chemise, on Equity rates,  played by Jamie Birkett

By the end of Year 9, they are 14 and suffering all the agonies and uncertainties of adolescence. Romance is in the air and the decisions they make begin to have a direct effect on their futures. The actors take full advantage of the bravado and awkwardness of the group’s teenage personalities to exploit all their comic potential.

The second half of the play takes us to that risky arena of social embarrassment, the Class Reunion. Who has succeeded or failed at the age of thirty? Long-held secrets explode and two new characters bring additional fun to the proceedings: Chemise, the hilarious Geordie actress hired as a ‘girlfriend’ for the night (Jamie Birkett again) and Paul (Killian Macardle), the pupil no one remembers.

Groan Ups gives the company a real opportunity to show their skills and strengths as actors. They take us from laugh-out-loud comedy to pin-drop quiet in a moment as devastating truths emerge and, as we come to realise, it’s not all fun and games being a ‘groan-up’.

This production is at the Malvern Festival Theatre until Saturday 5th February, then touring. Age recommendation 12+

Sue Hawkins


The class will be on a school trip to The Belgrade Theatre in Coventry Mon 28 Feb - Sat 5 Mar 2022.

Index page Malvern Reviews A-Z Reviews by Theatre