Review by Taylor Kendal
In human society, touch is vital. It is important for so many reasons, not only to feed the need for intimacy, but aiding in the production of oxytocin and numerous positive health benefits. Today, we live in a day and age where more and more people are feeling isolated and starved of human connection in many ways due, not singularly, to the nature of the current state of the world. But when one is in such need of human contact, and the usual avenues are foreign or unavailable, where can they go? Perhaps, to seek the help of a professional.
Written by Emma Gibson, and directed by Chelsea Matheson, The Cuddle Parlour is a new Australian play that follows Sophie, a ‘professional cuddler’ who provides non-sexual physical intimacy to clients who are starved for affection and human contact. After a client dies after spending the night with her, she meets Andrew Russell, an insomniac police officer tasked with solving the case, and who doesn’t hide his lack of belief in Sophie’s ideals with her work. Both characters are holding back with elements of their past, struggling to let go and move forward, leaving them rather stuck.
Emily Farrell’s Sophie is a calming presence and shows great affection for her work and her clients, unafraid to face the scrutiny of others when it comes to the legitimacy of her career and the benefits it provides. Playing both Gerald, the sweet natured but nervous client and the sceptical Andrew, Anthony Edward provides a seamless shift between characters who appear to be complete polar opposites, and yet perhaps share a few similarities. Both characters have identifiable traits about them, which keep them engaging throughout the short hour runtime of the performance. You learn about them, why they do what they do, and the insecurities and reservations holding them back from the need to move on.
The set is simplistic but befitting the style and theme of the show and proves that it is all in the details, and that less in many ways, is more. A table and two chairs, a bed, lamp and a hat rack make up the intimate stage, another beautiful attention to detail regarding the underlying theme of intimacy in various forms throughout the performance.
The performance deals with some very real topics, such as intimacy in many forms and the fear of, inability to escape the past and how clinging to it can show a hesitance to move forward in life; and accepting and managing loss. Very real topics that are handled in a very realistic way. A particularly enjoyable part of the script was the medical benefits of human touch, and how various elements and ‘cuddle positions’ have an impact on certain areas of your life.
Emma Gibson’s script is beautifully written, with characters that translate well into real life; people you might know, or perhaps elements of yourself that you might not be aware about. There were a few little plot points that were only discussed within the last five or so minutes of the play that while clearly important to the plot, seemed to be added as an afterthought and were only briefly touched on. It would have been interesting to see these revelations perhaps discussed in greater detail earlier on in the story, in my opinion.
If you are looking for a heart warming, honest story about the human need for touch and the importance of having others in your life, head down to The Butterfly Club and check out The Knack Theatre’s The Cuddle Parlour, playing until August 7.