Review: Cotton at Bike Shed Theatre

What if, right, what if instead of making our home from concrete –what if we made it from cotton? Feathers? Liquorice? What if we made it from code?

The Peaceful Defeat’s hard-hitting, gritty and profoundly intense performance –‘Cotton’ – opened my eyes to an existence I can’t really relate to, and one that I’d never want to.

I haven’t ever considered that ‘gaming’ (playing video games) could be an actual profession. I grew up with the occasional weekend treat of Sonic The Hedgehog and Mario Kart on our family Nintendo 64 (when my older siblings weren’t hogging it). And in my own family today we are definitely in the minority by not even owning a games console. Interestingly, it is estimated that there are 2.2 billion gamers worldwide (people that play video games on a regular basis), and for many of these, professional or competitive gaming is their reality. But so what? Everyone needs a hobby, an interest, a focus, a career – but what happens when it takes over your life and starts to impact on your health, your relationships and your ability to interact with the real world?

Review: Cotton at Bike Shed Theatre, Exploring Exeter 2018

Alex Benjamin (writer and producer of Cotton) immerses the audience into a dingy basement littered with energy drinks and an enormity of gaming paraphernalia alongside three professional gamers who are intent on winning a crucial tournament to finally make some money. When the top gamer makes a mistake – which is not surprising based on the amount of drugs he’s taken to stay awake and ‘enhance’ his play – their relationships spiral into anger, breakdown in communication, certain depression and revenge. Although one of the gamers is ‘happy’ to stay in his world of gaming reality – content that he has 6000 viewers watching him sleep and argue with his gambling-addicted father about the imminent loss of their home; the other two try to escape the gaming world by getting back to nature or securing a job – but can they succeed in the real world, and if not, what options are they left with?

Review: Cotton at Bike Shed Theatre, Exploring Exeter 2018


Addiction is everywhere. We can be addicted to drugs, alcohol, caffeine, pain, phones, food, shopping, work, exercise, pornography, and sex, to name a few. Gaming addiction is just another activity to add to the growing list as we move through the technology revolution. The timing of Cotton is very poignant since The World Health Organisation have recently announced that ‘gaming addiction’ is to be listed for the first time as a mental health condition: defined as “a pattern of persistent or recurrent gaming behavior so severe it takes precedence over other life interest”. According to BBC news, here in the UK we now have private clinics to ‘treat’ the condition, where addiction specialist Dr Richard Graham sees about 50 new cases of digital addiction each year.

Review: Cotton at Bike Shed Theatre, Exploring Exeter 2018

However many people in the gaming world refute the categorisation of gaming addiction as a mental illness and question if perhaps people that play sport for a living should be diagnosed with ‘sporting-addiction’ and those that draw a lot as having ‘drawing addiction’. My take on it is that everyone is different and people will react differently to gaming exposure – same as any other addiction. In fact, gaming also comes with a number of benefits: it can unite friends and families, stimulate cognitive function, and aid education. This topic clearly has immense depth to it and we are only really just scratching the surface with respect to the outcomes, cause, prevention and effect of serious gaming. I say, “everything in moderation” and also highly recommend experiencing this thought-provoking performance of ‘Cotton’, which will be shown next week (Feb 14–18th) at the VAULT FESTIVAL, London. Head over to the website for more information and to buy your tickets.

‘Cotton’ was written and directed by Alex Benjamin, co-produced by Niamh Percy and Natalie Bell, and with Ben Mallett, Will Pinhey, Franci Donovan-Brady and George Fincher as the cast.


See also:

Life on Water at The Bike Shed

From Devon with love Festival

Goodbye from The Bike Shed


About the author:

Liz Finnie is our certified blogging Vino fanatic and gradual convert to organic living.

Liz grew up in Adelaide then York, and relocated to Exeter in 2010 with husband and 3 month-old daughter. With a scientific background in regenerative medicine (and now a second child) she works as a freelance science writer/editor. Having fallen in love with Devon’s beaches, towns, moors, farms, and people, Liz and family feel settled and are currently making their newfound house a home, whilst continuing to enjoy all that Devon has to offer.