Alex Benjamin’s Cotton makes its London debut at The Waterloo East Theatre as part of VAULT Festival, a modern play for a modern world, capturing the trappings of youth, and the pitfalls of adulthood.
The subject is not one I’m terribly familiar with, and so I found much of it thoroughly fascinating. Three teenagers comprise a professional gaming team, but when they enter combat it’s on a computer, with a game called League of Legends, which apparently no one plays just for fun.
It turns out these professional gamers are considered athletes, and often compete in massive tournaments at the likes of Wembley Stadium. It becomes clear that anti-doping rules do not apply to these particular athletes, who are regularly popping Adderall, a drug designed to help concentration levels in children with ADHD.
Meanwhile, back in the real world, two of the team members father is struggling to make ends meet, and so decisions need to be made. The team disbands, and while one brother tries to seek meaningful employment, the other becomes a messiah for millennials, living life on a constant live stream to some six thousand followers.
The gaming element allows the plot to be framed in a very contemporary way, and it is genuinely interesting to hear the intricacies of how this world operates. Behind that though, is a very smart play about teenagers having to adapt, and live life in the “real world”, a theme which is well explored in Cotton.
The set resembles a typical teenagers bedroom, with computer equipment, and dirty washing, lying around. A strong cast help keep the plot believable, Will Pinhey, as Glenn, in particular is able to hone in on the trials and tribulations of a teenager, and gamer.
There’s a chance you may feel a little cheated by the ending, but it serves well to remember that rarely in life do stories end in neat little packages. Instead, Cotton gives us a glimpse in to the lives of these teenagers, before leaving the door open for them to go on and achieve whatever they set their mind to.