Writer: Luke Norris
Director: George Perrin
Reviewer: Holly Sharp
Tobes has spent the last couple of years working at a gardening centre, heading down the pub to watch the football with his mates, and him and his girlfriend Beth have been getting on just fine. Today, though, Beth’s leaving him, parting with the advice that it’s probably about time he got that lump on his ball checked out.
Fresh from a run at Edinburgh, Growth is part of the Paines Plough Roundabout 2016 national tour. The Roundabout, ‘the world’s first pop-up, plug-and-play theatre’, is the perfect setting for this witty but uncompromisingly hard-hitting three-hander about the turmoil that inevitably strikes when you stumble upon a lump where it shouldn’t be, or more accurately, when you’ve stumbled on a lump two years ago and you’ve finally decided it’s about time you did something about it.
Luke Norris’ work is characterised by fresh, keenly observed dialogue that feels like something you’re overhearing on the bus rather than from actors in a theatre. The strength of Norris’ dialogue withstanding, it’s difficult to put a finger on why you walk out feeling like you could have gotten to like Tobes, his main character, a little more. Then again, the apathy and stagnant lifestyle that in part contributes to Tobes’ predicament perhaps just doesn’t make him someone that an audience would ever fall in love with. It’s clear that this is no mistake by Norris, Tobes’ self-pitying dullness, played with admirable neuroticism by Andy Rush, is perhaps Norris’ greatest device, allowing the issues of Growth to be the key point of focus, rather than becoming afterthoughts or mere ‘events in the life’ of a likeable lead character. As an audience your heart isn’t so much drawn to Tobes’ individual plight as it is to real-life issues such as the social construct of ‘manliness’, the embarrassment that leads people to bury their heads in the sand rather than seeking treatment, and ultimately, the ubiquitous fear of our own mortality.
This is theatre how it should be. Hilarious at times horrifying but ultimately human. While neither scaremongering or ramming anything down your throat Growth serves as a stark reminder that it’s a lot better to be embarrassed for five minutes than to hide away and pay the ultimate price. A thought provoking and challenging take on what it means to be a modern man, Norris’ latest offering is far from a ‘balls-up’.
Reviewed on 9 September 2016 – then touring until 30 October | Image: Contributed