13 Apr

The dialogue between adulthood and childhood is an endlessly intriguing one. Children learn from adults and adults from children.

But it’s also through this intergenerational dialogue that we define ourselves. Don’t be such a child, adults tell each other.

Cough is set in a daycare centre, and playwright Emily Calder’s presentation of the two generations is fascinating. Much of the humour in this very funny play comes from the immaturity of the adults. Concern has been corrupted into fear, and the parents fret endlessly about their children’s welfare. But the children’s lives are also filled with trepidation.

Provocatively, both generations are played by the same actors. This brings to the foreground the issue: Is fear a learnt behavior? Or is it simply the human condition? (These questions are highlighted by the hilarious discussions between the parents about child rearing methods. ‘That’s just a theory. It’s definitely a theory!’ they snap.)

Photo by Lucy Parakhina

Photo by Lucy Parakhina

The performances are fabulous, with Vanessa Cole, Tim Reuben and Melissa Brownlow slipping between child and adult in a splendidly subversive manner. Tom Christophersen is the fourth in the ensemble, and his creation of Frank, the creepy toddler, is comic magic.

Director James Dalton production is wonderfully inventive and a sensual delight (especially keeping in mind this is not high budget theatre.) He is aided admirably by his design team. Benjamin Brockman’s lighting design is brilliant. The soundscape by Tom Hogan is appropriately ominous.

Cough might be about fear, but it’s also about connections. The generations are inextricably linked, and there’s a real pathos to this. But, of course, there’s also something deeply moving. The play is satirical, but something more. The final image is a beautiful blossoming challenge. Tantalizingly ambiguous, it’s filled with foreboding, but it’s also suggestive of that other shared human characteristic – the potential for wonder.

Veronica Kaye


Cough by Emily Calder

107 Projects til 20th April

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