Teenage angst is nothing new, we’ve all been there and done that and, somehow, we survived but that was then, and this is now. The modern high tech fast-paced world presents more issues to current teenagers and that has prompted The Theatre Workshop to ask, in their production Growing Pains, “Is it getting harder to survive?”
The production is performed in the vast Sixth Form building where the audience assembles in the main entrance foyer ready to embark on the first, promenade, piece. Barney Mercer takes the dual roles of narrator and guide as we head off into a long, fairly narrow, corridor where a number of “babies” sit. We watch as the boys and girls grow to the ripe old age of 16 in just a few minutes with, at various stages in their development, terrorism, social networking and their parent’s mortality all expressed as their biggest fears and those themes return throughout.
Rosie Taylor-Ritson – a superb performer who has already starred in the film Nanny McPhee - plays the super successful head girl who is tricked into sending naked pictures of herself via the internet, with her subsequent decent into ridicule, at the hands of her female cyber-bullies, dramatically portrayed in slow motion
We are then taken upstairs and, after a scene depicting domestic violence, we find ourselves on the top deck of the bus that was so cruelly destroyed in the July 7th attacks. This scene is incredibly powerful and played out so well that some members of the audience are unable to contain their sorrow. The drama then continues in the final scene of the piece in which a young girl and her Mother try and come to terms with their Father / Husband’s terminal cancer.
The audience heads back downstairs for the second piece, a series of improvised comedy sketches. The audience pick names from a hat and those actors then perform a series of “situations” as given to them by Co-Director Craig Whiteley. The scenes depict parents and children in a series of increasing awkward situations, each one brilliantly funny and, for improvisation, all wonderfully fluid.
The third piece is, quite simply, one of the most powerful, dramatic and intense scenes I have ever seen and I was honoured to witness such superb acting from a group of young adults who, as well as being the cream of the acting talent in Sussex, all deserve to find huge success in the future.
Declan Mason takes the lead in the piece, as a gay teenager who is mercilessly bullied. We are told that you never forget the person who tormented you through your school days, and the other characters in the cast list their own personal bullies, rekindling in the audience so many memories of their own childhood experiences. Despite the fact that he is still a teenager, Mason’s final words, followed by the closing scene, are delivered with the skill of an actor many years older and are so incredibly dramatic and moving that most of the audience – and even the sound operator - are seen brushing away floods of tears.
The performance depicts, through the use of comedy and drama, the stresses and difficulties of growing up in this ever changing world and is, without doubt, a massive highlight of Brighton Fringe 2012.