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Groan Ups - Waterside Theatre, Aylesbury

Ever wondered what your school friends are doing now? Did your experiences of growing up and school life shape who you are now? Are you still in touch with your school friends or did you cut your ties? The latest offering from Mischief is not a ‘goes wrong’ show other than life going a bit wrong. We follow five friends who meet in school at age six and we catch up with them again at age 14. In the second half, they are all grown up and in their early 30s. Have they changed? Are they all still friends? The story will reveal secrets kept for decades, how they really feel about each other as they reminisce about what could have been at a school reunion.

Daniel Abbott plays Archie who is clearly clever and wants to be a star. He is flamboyant and a leader. He is very close to Spencer and Katie and these are his key relationships as he grows up. Spencer is played by Dharmesh Patel and he is the ‘trouble maker’ in class. He doesn’t mean to be, but for him things do go wrong, especially with hamsters. He considers Archie his best friend and even offers him his super hero cape. Now that is true friendship. Katie is friends with them both. Katie (Lauren Samuels) is rather introvert but is very clever even if her dad does fancy all the mums.

Moon is played by Yolana Ovide and she is friends with Katie, but clearly the princess. She is rich and very extrovert; demanding attention from anyone who will give it to her. She doesn’t really grow up considers her best life was when she was at school. When will she realise you cannot control adults the same way you can with school friends? Finally, Simon is played by Matt Cavendish and he seems rather bullied. He gets the blame for things he doesn’t do and what the others feel are just pranks can have a lasting effect on him as an adult.

It’s laugh out loud in places but it is equally sad and melancholic in other areas. I felt tears spring to my eyes at the end of the show so be prepared for heart-breaking moments as real-life seeps in. I thought all the stages of their lives were done brilliantly. The six years olds were six. The 14-year-olds were like, well you know, like a 14-year-old, like would be, yeah. There was a part of me that cringed at the 14-year-olds were like because that is exactly how teenagers are. The Mischief cast nailed it. The acting is sublime. All the cast are outstanding and delivered their distinctive characters fantastically well. A special shout out to Jamie Birkett who plays Chemise. Her comedic timing was perfection.

With exemplary performances it’s well worth going to see. Just be prepared for hamsters being flopped!

Groan Ups is growing up at Waterside Theatre, Aylesbury until 29 January 2022.


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