Theatre review: Growing Pains

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He’s got a knife, and he’s not afraid to use it.

Growing Pains

Underbelly, Cowgate (Venue 61)

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He’s got a knife, and he’s not afraid to use it. How did this likeable, working-class young Northerner end up poised and ready to stab someone, staring into the red of their eyes? Over the course of Tom Gill’s one-man musical play we find out.

It’s starts with an almighty avalanche of words, with teenager Tom desperate to escape “The Estate” and his violent father in favour of becoming an actor. But it then develops into a genre-busting piece of theatre that fuses acoustic guitar with rap, and rhyming lyrics with wryly observed scenes of daily life – from Tom dealing with his father’s bullying in Salford to trying to get into “The Boundary Stone” pub (named because everyone who goes there “stays within its boundaries”). This mash-up of styles is a breath of fresh air in a festival filled with the clever but at times cold rhythms of young male performance poets.

Tom’s nights out with his mates – one who’s “into brands”, another who has a good haircut (a natural reaction to which is “looks shit”), and another who’s a stoner who laughs at his own jokes – capture both the appeal and the restrictions of small-town life. He’s living in a box room but “thinking outside” of it – and he’s determined to get out. But while Tom’s father can’t follow him to London, the destruction he’s ingrained in his son can.

Like the seeds in his neighbour’s garden, Tom will “blossom with the right care, but die and grow ugly” without it. Through an unassuming but incredibly accomplished performance from Gill, who flits between musical genres with seemingly effortless skill, Tom finally puts the knife down and turns to face both the music and his future.

Sally Stott

Until 28 August. Today 4:30pm.