Growing pains is a beautiful celebration of storytelling through dance and theatre by an incredibly talented young cast. It’s a brilliant blend of these two mediums and weaves together a story of love, life and loss. The show immediately shows us what it’s capable of with a beautifully choreographed piece with Sivert Hoyem’s “Prisoner of the road” - choreographed by Tabby Somerfield. With incredible use of the stage, the dancers are able to create an infinitive loop using their bodies, which is utterly stunning. It was at this moment (about four minutes into the piece), that I knew I had stepped into something truly special.
With limited dance knowledge, I wasn’t able to appreciate the carefully chosen styles, but the show is still incredible to watch without understanding the choices made. I was still able to understand the story, and appreciate the choreography. The show is able to differentiate a few different storylines without so much as a word and with the cleverly chosen use of costume and wigs (special shoutout to Maggie’s wig, glasses and earrings in particular).
The storylines are immediately compelling by the addition of complications, tensed relationship dynamics and impending drama, and I was thoroughly invested. Particularly with the mother and her children. The leads of these plots and the ensemble seamlessly compliment, contrast and engage with each other, and it’s quite refreshing to see the blend of dance, movement and theatre together in this way.
The songs chosen for the show are great, and often add another layer to the show, being the only words we hear. They work well with the choreography, but also help with setting tone and time frame. A particular shoutout for the segment with Harry Styles' “Sign of the Times” which was also choreographed by Somerfield. This song is so incredibly choreographed, with the use of dance, flashing lights, running, falling, additional sound effects, it’s a phenomenal part of the show. It’s such a strong point, and delivers the overwhelming sense of grief, loss and survival. Maneskin’s “Begging” and San Yung’s “Wings” are also both acted out so well, and become some of the strongest moments emotionally.
Also the show’s inclusion of a queer couple has been utilised exceptionally well. From the initial hesitancy in both of the actual characters themselves, and in the steps, to a steady growth in confidence was such a clever decision and lead to really powerful moments. Also, with the help of the background projections, the imagery of them dancing alone on a rainy street was a nice addition. This continues really well in Grace Davies’ “Roots." The song choice is perfect, and with the the inclusion of another anxious queer couple, the strength they all share is really empowering to watch. When they are finally accepted by Maggie, the movement was quite wholesome.
The group choreography throughout the show is always a pleasure to watch, and individual members of the ensemble have each been given an opportunity to showcase their skills. Another great moment was the use of projections to turn the white backdrop into a canvas piece which related to the feelings of two of the leads. This leads to a rather sweet moment of the mixing of colours as the young couple comes to terms with their feelings.
The end of act one is perhaps the strongest moment emotionally speaking, with the entire cast bringing a somber tone, wearing all black to the funeral. This is a sharp contrast when act two opens with the cast in white, and the use of Sam and the Womp’s “Bom Bom” which was a crowd favourite. With colourful costumes (a moment of appreciation to the number of quick changes that the ensemble goes through), a really peppy song; both the audience and the dancers on stage were having a great time. It was really heart-warming to see the cast having fun dancing together, as it’s something we often forget to do when creating art together.
The show builds emotional scenes up well, but is careful to not leave the audience stewing in these emotions, by adding positive numbers right after these scenes. The highlight of act two is the dance of between two of the male leads. Dancers Andrew Parfitt and William Markendale play off and against one another incredibly well, and deliver some stunning choreography. It’s also a very raw scene and emotionally charged, and you truly feel the pain and anger of the characters. A brilliant reprise of Harry Styles' “Sign of the Times” brings the show to a close, with another chance for individual ensemble members to shine, and a beautifully choreographed V-formation.
The only downside of the show is the second act is a little more rushed, with back to back dance numbers, which whilst are still entertaining and engaging to watch, overshadow the narrative plots. The story thread begins to fade, and struggles to find itself. However, this isn’t really a complaint as the choreography is fun to watch, and the show redeems itself towards the end with a rather dramatic phone call that brings the story back to the heart of the show.
The show is a culmination of nearly thirty young dancers, and they have all done an exceptional job. However, there are a few members who I particularly wanted to appreciate - Brooke Hussey, Sarah Shaw, Molly Fenner, Ludguro Souza and Carli Trowbridge were all incredible and really shone in their roles. However, it is Trisha Kumar who stole the show as Maggie.
Project Dance was founded by James Bamford nearly five years ago, and he has done an exceptional job at choreographing, directing and fighting for the show. The mission that Project Dance stands for is so important, and it’s incredible to see how much he has achieved with this show being the first of what I am sure, will be many.
AD | gifted tickets in return for an honest review