The stellar reputation of Paines Plough’s championing of new writing for the theatre means that each new offering is welcomed with a great deal of anticipation. Constantly hard-hitting, their offerings present fresh perspectives on contemporary issues voiced by some of the most exciting dramatic writers in the UK. This play, Growth, by Luke Norris, takes on the sensitive subject of testicular cancer (a word that pertinently is never actually vocalised) and gives a voice to those struggling to deal with the disease, as well as raising awareness of the ailment that afflicts a not insignificant number of men.

All three actors here deliver Norris’s dialogue with an alacrity and attack that maintains a severe pace throughout

Housed in Paines Plough’s own touring theatre space, this production benefits from the intimate in-the-round configuration afforded, creating the impression that the characters before us are hemmed in by the difficulties they face. And indeed the suffering of the central protagonist, a young down-on-his-luck known by all as ‘Tobes’, is played with feeling by Andy Rush. The starkness of the scene transitions adds to the sense that it is Tobes against the world, as we are presented with one problem after another, leading to the feeling that a happy ending may be unlikely.

All three actors here deliver Norris’s dialogue with an alacrity and attack that maintains a severe pace throughout – such is the relentless nature of the scenes that we come to share in Tobes’s feeling that the walls of his world are closing in. Scattered amongst the lines are barbed references to so-called masculinity with Tobes being told to ‘man-up’ and derided as a ‘delicate flower’ – apparently more ‘orchid rather than oak tree’. The casual use of such recognisable sentiments present within sections of society is helpful in illuminating perhaps the greatest issue associated with this type of cancer, the reluctance of many men to seek treatment, or even to get checked, because of some kind of imagined stigma connected with doing so.

All three actors work superbly together, and despite the challenges faced by multi-roling with very little time for character development, they each manage to squeeze a great deal of humour out of each exchange. Certainly, owing to the thoroughly entertaining nature of much of the play, the harder-hitting elements are made all the more thought-provoking. The closing scenes are entirely successful in providing an element of perspective for Tobes and for the audience, and are sure to have the impact for which they were designed.

Reviews by Joshua Clarke


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The Blurb

‘That? That’s. I mean. Yeah. It’s a lump in a bag of lumps. I mean. It’s normal.’ Tobes is young, free and having a ball. Off. He’s successfully ignored his lump for two years but it’s starting to get in the way – cramping his style and, worse, affecting his sex life. So now there are pants to be dropped, and decisions to be made... it's a real ball-ache. Growth is a comedy about growing up and manning up from rising star Luke Norris (So Here We Are, Royal Exchange. Goodbye to All That, Royal Court).