REVIEW: Grow Up by Perseverance Street Theatre

Vivienne Wynter

A play about play (for grownups).

‘Grow up!’ This phrase gets used a lot, whether it’s a frustrated adult to child, or a frustrated adult to adult acting like a child. Is growing up always such a good thing to aspire to?

This original play written by Sofia Abbey and Jonas White, explores what it means to grow up, particularly how we play, when we stop playing and what that means for our grown up selves.

Many adults have forgotten how to play and sadly, as Grow Up shows, sometimes we stop playing too early.

Actors Fletcher Colfs and Mackenzie Knickel at play

Set in a neglected playground, director Sharon Hogan brings her magic to the story of two children, primary school aged Jude (Mackenzie Knickel) and a slightly older boy (Fletcher Colfs) who thinks now he’s in his early teens, play is over.

Jude has other ideas and her amazing and hilarious capacity for playing a pirate, a super hero and a sheriff made me want to play too.

So did the stories drawn from interviews with Gympie residents who remember how they played in anecdotes brought vividly to life in voiceover and imagery.

As we listen to their voices, exquisite drawings by a young Gympie artist, Ruby Smith-Crossley, are animated and projected in shadow in the background creating a delicate, nostalgic, naïve memory of their childhoods.

In the foreground, shadow puppets are used to evoke tender moments.

Music helps animate the main characters’ games, whether its superheroes, showdown at the OK Corral or pirate adventures on the high seas.

Set design is spare and effective, with subtle touches like a lost shoe, a rubber ball and a tiny Tonka Truck lying abandoned in the woodchips and making me wonder about the children who left them behind.

Subtle touches evoke childhood

People are sometimes awkward around the concept of playing and Grow Up has laugh out loud moments on this theme. The two actors have great chemistry and their friendship of opposites who change each other while playing together is believable and touching.

Grow Up is intensely physical (after all, it’s about play) and the actors add tension as they acrobatically leap around playground equipment which could be dangerous but is probably just engineered to look that way. And anyway don’t kids do the same thing every day?

What’s being demolished, the playground or our sense of play?

While the two characters connect and collide at play, there is a thicker plot because the playground is threatened with demolition which may represent how adults demolish the role of play as we mature.

Grow Up is fast paced, never drags and keeps up the momentum with a standard ‘no interval’ policy. Swept up in the action, you can easily lose yourself, to use the words of Willy Wonka, in a ‘world of pure imagination’.

Bringing Gympie stories to life

Grow Up is the fifth production by Perseverance Street Theatre, an independent theatre company based in Gympie.

Its focus is to ‘build theatre from the ground up’ and bring the stories of the Gympie community to life.

Grow Up is an example of this artistic ethos offering a different theatre option to Broadway hits and classics that are not always relevant to Gympie or Queensland.

It’s a great show to see with your teenager, your sweetheart, your mate or by yourself and reminisce about when you were small and maybe pause to wonder: can I still play?

Suitable for ages 12 and up, Grow Up runs at Perseverance Street studio 4 / 24 Barter St Gympie until 20 September.  Show times 7 pm to 8.30 pm. Book tickets here


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