Growing pains takes us through the life of Kitty as she navigates the world, from young childhood to University. Mixed with her relationships to her past, we see a heartfelt and likeable character’s journey unfold.
From the very start, it’s as if we are sitting in a room with Kitty. Played energetically by the captivating and skilful Stephanie Manton, we soon learn of about her worries and her interests, all via her magnetic imagination.
Writer and director Kim Southey cleverly intertwines puppetry intervals by telling the subplot of Kitty’s five favourite animal Toy’s, brought to life as a group of friends. It is essentially what brings this show to such life. Manton bounces between the different animal characters with their different voices and accents, even some ventriloquism techniques, making them implausibly believable in a strange way. There are heart-warming and funny moments, we hear how when the toys first met they bonded through learning about where they were manufactured. It leaves us all childishly giggling. These bursts of puppetry add in an imaginative, exciting and playful dimension to this sweet tale, helping to highlight the importance of play within children’s lives.
Southey’s writing is ultimately directed towards themes of mental health. The play ends with a powerful and poignant message that does result in a tear or two amongst the audience. It does potentially come a little too close to being a touch too preachy. It would be much better simply to allow the audience to work out the intended message for themselves without the need for it to be laid out so blatantly.
But importantly, we’re left with a clear reminder of just how devastating it can be when you are unable to receive adequate help when you are suffering. And there is a hardy shout of ‘don’t give up’ which tugs wonderfully at the heart strings. It feels as if this is a personal and cathartic story we are hearing. It’s an endearing and touching coming of age tale that left me wanting to grasp my true essential nature.
Written and directed by: Kim Southey
Produced by: Georgina Bennett
Sound composed by: Pablo Munoz
Growing Pains has completed its current run at The Hope Theatre.