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Friday 26 November 2021

Interview: Writer Henry Lewis Olivier Talks Anarchic Comedy Groan Ups @ Theatre Royal Brighton This Week

Co-writer Henry Lewis Olivier, of West End hit, Groan Ups, talks about the comedic coming-of-age production that is playing Theatre Royal Brighton until the end of this week.

Q/ Groan Ups is a comedy all about growing up! In your own words, how would you describe the show?

Henry Lewis Olivier (HLO): Groan Ups is indeed all about growing up. About how life becomes more complex. About how much (and sometimes how little!) things change over time, and about how events in our youth can change our lives forever. 

But at its heart Groan Ups is a joyful comedy, finding its fun in the madness of childhood, the agonies of adolescence and all the ridiculous things we do when we all finally pretend to be adults.

Q/ Whilst still a comedy, Groan Ups is "something a little bit different" to the now globally recognised "Goes Wrong" brand. What was the inspiration behind this one?

HLO: I truly love all things Goes Wrong, for me there is very little that is as joyful as those moments of pure clown. But in the Goes-Wrong-World the actors are always speaking the lines of the play they"re in, and you rarely get to hear them speak as themselves. 

While you can discover a good deal about the characters of the actors in Goes Wrong from the decisions they make when things start to unravel, it's difficult to tell these stories with these characters. 

So, we wanted to create a show that put character storylines at the centre of things and followed the intricate tale of a group of characters, while still delivering big laughs. 

Q/ How did you go about developing the storyline and script? 

HLO: We wrote the script over a few months, then developed it with Kirsty, our excellent director, and the original Mischief cast. 

We've done a few tweaks since the West End as well for the UK Tour. We always find the more you can refine something the sharper and funnier you can make it.

Q/ Amidst the physical gags and clever word-play Mischief is so well known for, there's an ongoing and more serious message throughout Groan Ups. How did you balance the two together?

HLO: We made sure we gave the more heart-felt moments space to breathe in the show but also, we found that comedy and tragedy don't always need to be compartmentalised. 

Some of my favourite moments in the show are where the two rub up against each other, funny lines said at heart-breaking moments and devastating lines spoken in a whirlwind of farce are extremely good fun.
Q/ The show revels in that sweet sense of nostalgia we all feel when we look back on our childhoods. Was there anything you brought from your own childhood into the writing? 

HLO: We each have one teacher's name from our childhoods hidden in the script, and many of the situations are based on something similar to an experience we had growing up… although I never bellyflopped onto a hamster, I promise!

Q/ Mischief has gone from a small improv group in London to an internationally recognised and successful company, a true 'rags to riches"'story. What's the journey been like for you? 

HLO: It's been extraordinary. I've learned so much and have been so lucky to bring laughter to so many people. The pandemic has made me realise just how much of a privilege that is. I have so much fun writing and performing with the company and I'm very excited for the next chapter!

Groan Ups at Theatre Royal Brighton from Tuesday 23rd November - Saturday 27th November 2021. CLICK HERE for tickets.

by: Mike Cobley


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