On the tin, Growth sounds like a play about cancer. But it isn’t, at least not completely. Tobes is in a pretty bad place when his post-breakup Tinder hook-up discovers his lump… down there. He’s recently been dumped by a girlfriend who blames him for his emotional responses and tells him to ‘man up’; lost his job where he works for a boss who tells him to be more oak tree and less orchid, and he has no money. His sister tells him not to burden their mother. So he doesn’t. He keeps it all to himself, trying and failing to live up to these expectations of manhood in his own toxic bubble.
Luke Norris’ writing is witty, sharp and frequently laugh-out-loud funny, whipping between scenes separated by blackouts. Andy Rush gives a lovely vulnerable performance as Tobes, with Richard Corgan and Remy Beasley providing staunch support, each taking on a range of characters in Tobes’ life, switching between them quickly and competently. Until the very end, there are only ever two characters onstage – Tobes and one other. As such, the play is performed as a series of confrontations, characters circling around each other like boxers in the ring – a clever use of the Roundabout space by director George Perrin. It begins to feel relentless, the attacks on Tobes coming from all sides, from people telling him what to do and how to be and completely missing the struggling man at the centre.
This is a clever play which shines light on two intertwined dark subjects – cancer and the pressures of masculinity.