Groan Ups. Pics by Pamela Raith Photography

“I tell you what, that Chemise was legendary” my husband commented as we walked back to the car after watching Groan Ups at the Oxford Playhouse last night, where it opened for the week.

In fact, Chemise (French for shirt) – as played by Jamie Birkett – rather stole the show. Hired from a talent agency for the night as an escort at a school reunion, Chemise’s acting skills, which she boasted proudly had been reviewed as ‘making any character unbelievable’ had us in stitches as she burst in again and again, getting more and more horribly theatrical with each take.

Primary School in Groan Ups

The farcical element was unsurprisingly evident throughout Mischief Theatre‘s new comedy Groan Ups, set in three stages of life – primary school, secondary school and then a school reunion.

We move from poohs and farts, to snogging, fondling and illicit drinking, and then keeping up appearances and hidden agendas, and it all came out in the wash!

Renowned for their stable of farces, from The Play That Goes Wrong through to The Comedy About A Bank Robbery, Mischief has decided to give straight comedy a go with this coming-of-age story.

But perhaps therein lies its weakest link, because while Groan Ups is a funny, happy-go-lucky, heart-warming, instantly relatable comedy, it lacks the chaos, mayhem and hysteria which has seen Mischief selling out theatres around the world.

Groan Ups

That’s not to deter from the often hilarious moments hidden within, the spot on depictions of tiny children, teenagers or awkward adults – the difficult situations we can all relate to – the lure and potential disaster lurking at every corner of the dreaded school reunion, the ebb and flow of long-term friendships, the terror of bumping into exes, the brutal frankness of tiny children, the vulnerability of classroom pets, the disparity between teenage girls and boys, the misfits, the banter, it brings it all back.

Mischief Theatre fanatics may find the pace lacking it’s usual gut-wrenching hilarity and blistering pace

We lived vicariously through them; the rivalry, the crushes, the hierarchy, the pressure. We moved from poohs and farts to snogging, fondling, illicit drinking and then keeping up appearances and hidden agendas, and it all came out in the wash.

“They are beautiful aren’t they the lives we do not live?” says Spencer, played so endearingly by Dharmesh Patel (of Creation Theatre fame).

Moments of comedy gold included the primary school children describing their father’s affair, the constant demise of the school guinea-pig, Chemise’s wonderful appearances and a misplaced former classmate Paul (played by Killian Macardle) and his walrus impression.

Groan Ups. Pic by Pamela Raith

Groan Ups is a lovely comedy, providing a gentle reintroduction to theatre for those who need it, but Mischief Theatre fanatics may find the pace lacking its usual gut-wrenching hilarity and blistering pace.

Katherine MacAlister

Groan Ups runs at Oxford Playhouse until Saturday September 18. Go to