Theatre review: Growth

Andy Rush as Tobes, A self-centred but well-meaning manchild
Andy Rush as Tobes, A self-centred but well-meaning manchild
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“You’re being an orchid when you want to be an oak tree,” Tobes is told, and it’s true.

Star rating: ****

Venue: Roundabout @ Summerhall

He’s a delicate millennial flower, easily damaged, when the sense is he wants to be dependably manly. He just can’t get a grip: his girlfriend dumps him and shacks up with her personal trainer; his boss tries to be understanding, but Tobes has pushed himself to the brink of the sack; his landlord’s daughter comes round at his lowest ebb to warn him that rent is due or he’s out.

And then there’s the lump, discovered on his testicle in the middle of a one night stand and flagged up a breath or two after being told no, he isn’t going to be getting any more sex that night.

Presented by Paines Plough and Roundabout, this unlikely comedy by Luke Norris consolidates the career of a significant playwriting talent. It’s presented in the simplest terms, with Andy Rush as Tobes, tag-teaming between Remy Beasley and Richard Corgan as a procession of male and female characters met on his journey into tragedy and possible redemption; the friend whom he asks in desperation to inspect his genitals; the female doctor he finds distractingly attractive; the irreverent sperm donor clinic receptionist; the consultant he poignantly begs to tell him something nice. Director George Perrin and lighting designer Prema Mehta make full use of the in-the-round Roundabout space and its three access corridors to create a dynamic and propulsive atmosphere.

Quite simply, this is everything you could want from a play on such a difficult subject. It’s so straightforward and genuinely laugh-out-loud funny as to make it a popular hit, but with an unerring connection to its characters and their responses, particularly those of self-centred but well-meaning manchild Tobes, who’s growing up fast. If there’s any sense of a public health announcement being made, it’s delivered like a hammer by Corgan’s dying dad who won’t get to protect his son from bullies, in one of the most heart-stoppingly human scenes we can imagine seeing this August.

Until 27 August. Today 1:35pm.

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