Review by Nerissa Rowan
When you think of poetry, do you think Shakespearean sonnets or bush ballads? In Growing Pains, four writers show us there’s a lot more to spoken word than rhythm and rhyme. This is “poetry”. It touches on themes of ethnicity, relationships, religion and the trials of growing up.
They’ve taken over the Bird Gallery, a cosy space permeated with the smell of coffee and packed with chairs, cushions and beanbags. On the wall is a work in progress — a collage of baby photos and memories. The audience and cafe patrons are encouraged to add their own memories to the wall. Prompters like “what did you want to be when you grow up” and “what smell do you remember” are designed to inspire us to share our stories too.
“Herein you will find instructions on being an adult.” Martin Ingle’s hilarious piece about the rules of adulthood sets the tone for the next hour. He is confident and funny, bringing a stand-up comedy feel to the show, particularly when he asks the question: is it love or food poisoning?
His work is interspersed with that of the three other performers. Vuong Pham is quiet and reflective, bringing haiku and faith into the mix. The soft spoken but powerful words of Jo Sri make it obvious why he was the Queensland winner of the National Poetry Slam in 2012. His words are heartfelt, personal, humorous and often political.
We have to wait a little while before Josh Donellan takes the stage, but he brings more great slam and storytelling filled with wordplay and emotion. He’s the only one who comes close to fitting the traditional stereotype of a writer, with his 1984 t-shirt and a hat that, at first glance, looks like a beret.
There’s some creative metaphor, amusing wordplay and jokes at the expense of poetry. The audience laps it up.
The finale is a well-constructed collaborative piece which wraps up the show nicely. It brings the performers, their styles and themes together into a cohesive whole. Words are my thing, and I enjoyed this show immensely.
Growing Pains ran at Bird Gallery on 16 May, 2013. Anywhere Festival.
Nerissa Rowan is a poet, performer, Arts Hub reviewer, and former OffStreet PressGang member.