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A classy love story with a split personality

Fringe World review: The Cutting Room Floor, Cotton Wool Kid ·
State Theatre Centre, January 29 ·
Reviewed by David Zampatti ·

I confess to being a little confused by Cotton Wool Kid, a new work by local indie outfit The Cutting Room Floor & Summer Nights written and directed by its co-artistic director Zoe Hollyoak.

For all its quality – and it has plenty – it felt throughout like a story in search of its voice, and a staging in search of its stance.

Briefly, and without giving too much away, it’s the story of the arc of the love affair of Tim (Ben Mortley) and Sophie (Emily Brennan).

It plays out over two decades, from their unusual, accidental meeting (he’s a paramedic, she’s an event manager he hit and injured with his van) to her, also unusual, discovery that she’s accidentally pregnant with their second child.

It’s what happened to their first, Lily, and subsequently to them, that’s Hollyoak’s concern here.

And it’s there the play’s trouble lies. Up until the event that changed their lives and eventually destroyed their relationship, Tim and Sophie are smart, normal, a bit sexy, a little self-assured, and Mortley and Brennan play them rather like those breezy FM breakfast radio “teams” that keep me glued to Radio National in the morning.

Afterwards, they play like an exercise in sociology;  it would have been no surprise to see statistics about breakdown, separation and divorce after trauma flashing up on the screen behind them.

Of course people change under the pressure of terrible events, but Tim and Sophie become different people entirely, and I’m not sure that’s accurate to life.

The broken-backed nature of the text is amplified by a fair amount of dialogue direct to the audience that further distances us from the characters as people rather than types; it’s often in the scenes between Sophie and a number of characters (played with gusto by Morgan Owen) – a detective, a shop assistant, a friend of Sophie’s – that the drama completely ignites.

It’s early days for this piece, and Hollyoak has plenty to work with. Her staging is smooth and often nifty, the design (by Reinette Roux with lighting by the ubiquitous Scott McArdle and sound by Shaun Pickett) is sharp and inventive, and, for all its awkwardness, you want things to go well for Sophie, Tim and Lily.

And that’s a good start.

Cotton Wool Kid plays at the State Theatre Centre until February 2.

Pictured top: Emily Brennan and Ben Mortley in Cotton Wool Kids. Photo: Lucy Blatchford (Pixel Poetry)



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