During the time they have been at this year’s Fringe, friends and collaborators Otto Farrant and Finn Cooke have stayed tied together by rope. From this intimate experience has arisen Spool, a short, beguiling meditation on the dependency of the mind upon the body and vice versa.
It was Descartes who first suggested a distinction between the mind and body, two things so different in nature—one thinking, the other responding to thought—that he believed they could exist separately. Spool taps the apparently rich comic potential in such philosophy by representing the co-dependency of Mind and Body as a relationship turned sour. Tied together by a rope about their waists, Farrant and Cooke bicker and argue like a married couple: even during sex, when the Body’s physical delights with a woman are scuppered by the Mind’s continual fretting, as Farrant peers over the bed, worrying about split condoms, contraceptives and—just in case—baby names.
What follows is a tricksy romp blending pseudo-science with light-hearted marital drama. The boys eventually separate in divorce-like proceedings, divvying up their assets: the imagination and memory go to the Mind, the reproductive system to the Body. The piece has a clear, if unsurprising throughline, charting the Mind and Body’s subsequent excitement at their newfound independence, before the endearing but inevitable realisation that they cannot be without one another. It rattles by at a nifty pace, with interesting ideas often left unexplored: more could be made of the opening scene, in which Farrant gazes doe-eyed into a mirror and honestly describes what he would change about his body, or the array of interesting tidbits the play throws up, like the fact the Mind has over 70,000 thoughts a day (there’s an idea for a new play right there).
But this is no Constellations: the piece is light and airy and avoids getting bogged down in the science of what is describes. The duo also play to their strengths: Cooke is a Royal Ballet dancer and his choreography surfaces throughout the performance, to KC and The Sunshine Band’s Give It Up, while up-and-coming actor Farrant gets much of the script. With an impressive sound design by Duncan Roche and an inventive use of the stage, in their Fringe debut the duo have created a charming combination of text and dance, sound and imagery, Mind and Body.
Spool is playing at Greenside at Nicolson Square until August 27.