GROAN UPS (comedy)
NOT SUITABLE FOR THOSE AGED UNDER 13.
Ends 1st December 2019.
Captioned performance: 16th November 2019 at 7.30pm.
Audio described performance: 12th November 2019 at 7.30pm (touch tour 6pm)
Signed performance: 30th November 2019 at 2.30pm.
Aged 13 or 30, school affects almost all of us.
Mischief Theatre return with a new show, in which they play both teenagers and
teachers in an anarchic new comedy by the team.
(Seen at the afternoon preview performance on 7th October 2019).
According to the programme notes, this show is based on a form of French theatre
called "Child Bouffon." For those more familiar with British comedy, it means
"Billy and Johnny," "The Two Ronnies," Morwenna Banks and a billion other
television sketch-shows where little children say things adults cannot. A
two-minute sequence can be uproariously funny, but can it be stretched to a full
evening's entertainment? If anyone can, the Mischief Theatre writing team of
Henry Lewis, Jonathan Sayer and Henry Shields can pull it off...
... and they fail, miserably.
This is one excruciatingly unfunny show, with only a couple of genuine moments
of comedy and pathos saving it from total disaster – and not in a deliberately
“goes wrong” way. Split into three parts, we trace the school lives of five
children from year two to adulthood.
Things begin promisingly enough with a short “school assembly” sequence (beware
front stalls folk) but become unglued instantly as the school appears to be for
those aged reception class straight to sixth-form. How many schools do that?
The device launches year two’s “what we did at the weekend” presentation,
introducing the main characters and trying to milk original laughs from the
toilet-humour those who write this stuff without thinking consider all small
children are obsessed with. Horrible “knowing” innuendo misses the mark and
irritates with repetition.
Moving into the aftermath, the classroom has the children communicating
ad-nauseam without regard for age or interest. Worth noting that the monkey
attended with its elderly parents (both huge Mischief Theatre fans who begged to
share the treat). Both fell asleep at this juncture and the monkey didn’t wake
them as it would have been cruel.
After a lengthy 40 minutes and scene change (terrible second set by Fly Davis –
no high school has an infantile classroom like that), they are 13. The fumbling
continues (and one character calls the other Vernon for some odd reason). The
talk is less lavatorial, more lustful, but again long stretches of dialogue fail
to move things forward at much of a pace.
An interval – the monkey was working, so couldn’t leave – and they are adults at
a re-union. Fly Davis strikes again with a mis-judged table and chairs scale.
Extra superfluous characters are introduced – being fair “Chemise” (Bryony
Corrigan) tries hard - lumbered with material telegraphed with even more flags
and lights than anything preceding it (and there is plenty of that, too). The
other new running joke character, “Paul” (Dave Hearn) is a considerable
irritation without reward.
Still, a moment of tenderness between swot Katie (Charlie Russell) and loser
Spencer (Henry Lewis) is beautifully observed and lifts for a moment hopes of
redemption. Another running joke involving Lewis and the class pet saves things
further – but once more goes on far too long to affect the overall impression.
In fairness, Krystal Dockery (understudy Moon, replacing absent Nancy Zamit) is
a stronger actor than her character is written, let down in this third scene as
the writing flounders to give her a meaningful conclusion.
Other cast members, including bullied Simon (Jonathan Sayer) and posh Archie
(Henry Shields) get obvious and minced finishes, also satisfying nobody. They
wrote this, and are responsible – handing in homework clearly cribbed from
“The Comedy About A Bank Robbery” showed that this team need vast amounts of
time to refine material – that show has changed considerably since its original
4-star opening. This time, the theatre was booked way in advance... and it shows
that the play itself has had no time to be worked or polished.
Cut to 90 minutes, staged with regard to the characters' ages and with
characters eliminated to focus on the heightened reality of the main ones – a
move that has served the company well in the “Goes Wrong” series, the play may
stand a chance. As it stands, you’ll groan all right at the waste of your time
and money, as well as the thought of what might have been.