Meet Adele, a single mother from Manchester who nervously steps out of the cold and into a therapist's room for the first time. She's here for "coaching", a compulsory assignment from the hospital after an incident that happened a couple of weeks ago. The counselling program, called "Grow", is based on identifying goals and helping her achieve them. She chooses to focus on getting back her young son.

Both characters are fully formed and portrayed with endearing truthfulness.

Adele, played by Samantha Siddall, sits face-on to the audience in a single spotlight, while the life coach sits with us in the front row of the audience. By making this monologue show into very one-sided duologue, we are welcomed into the story and this provides a living energy and clarity to the piece. It's beautifully intimate and I'm immediately drawn to the character and what she has to say. What stands out is the sincerity; I feel like I'm meeting two very real people, who I deeply care about.

What's clear is that Siddall, most famous for her work in Shameless, is an excellent actor. Both characters, with the life coach played by director Rachael Brogan, are fully formed and portrayed with endearing truthfulness. They are beautiful performances. It can be so difficult to keep a long, storytelling monologue spontaneous and for the majority of the time, Siddall achieves it, although the freshness is sometimes lost when the change is made from duologue into monologue. Her openness is apparent and, although the character is beautifully self-restrained, I’d have liked to see Brogan let herself lose control when the emotional stakes reach their peak.

As much as I'm drawn to and enjoy the characters and story, my interest is piqued further when the show ends and a Q&A with Siddall and Brogan begins, which will happen at every performance. We start to understand why the piece feel so real and fresh; not only is Siddall a mother and Brogan is a life coach, but Siddall used to work as a transcriber for Child Protection cases in a hospital and the script came out of a recorded improvisation based on her real emotional memories.

The audience, mostly full of mothers, is evidently affected by the truth that has struck home in the piece. Grow is a heartfelt, well-delivered and very real vignette into the life of a single mother. 

Reviews by Cara Ballingall

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The Blurb

One fateful night, a single mother pushed to her limits makes a rash decision with devastating consequences... Shameless star Samantha Siddall delivers an ‘Authentic performance’ (Chris Honer, Library Theatre). ‘Intense being in the action’ (Jennifer Symon, ITV). ‘Brilliantly blurred the lines of reality!’ (Steve Vickers, Contact Theatre). ‘A treat, intense, wanted more’ (Gill Charnock, Lime Pictures). Directed by Manchester Evening News Theatre Award winner Rachel Brogan as part of the Grow series. Followed by an aftershow discussion.