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Woolly: The Morose Merino @ Courthouse Hotel

★★★

“I’m not most sheep,” declares Alexander Cofield, sweating profusely, strutting his stuff as Woolly, the Morose Merino. He’s still feeling the effects of his show’s opener - a memorable scene that will likely stay with audiences long after they leave the Courthouse Hotel. Overall, though, while Cofield does present similarly inspired bits throughout his show, consistency emerges a key issue for Woolly: The Morose Merino.
 
If there’s any constant, it’s Cofield’s chops as a performer. Boasting a lovely Yorkshire lilt, an abundance of charm and charisma, as well as a penchant for sheep puns, Cofield is a likeable lad. He’s at home on stage and seems to genuinely enjoy every moment. All of these things keep the show afloat when it begins to drag - and it does, following some strong first impressions. The writing could do with some tinkering. In weaving Woolly’s tale, Cofield lays the exposition on a little too thick. There’s a lot of being talked at and, overall, rambling whimsy proves no substitute for bonafide side-splitters. It’s only natural to wonder where it’s all going and whether it will ultimately amount to something satisfying.
 
Pleasingly, though, Woolly finds its feet eventually and does so in impressive fashion. An absurd tangent that emulates the nightmarish chaos of a Willy Wonka boat ride signifies that business has picked up. Mid-show, the narrative is suddenly splashed with colour, with Woolly’s tale moved along in a far more engaging and comedically-rich way. A surprising segment of poetry continues the trend, the show gathering real momentum. Mid-show is where Cofield shines. The prescription here isn’t more gimmicks, necessarily, but there’s no doubt at all that Woolly benefits from a spike of ingenuity. There’s evidence that Cofield has the creativity to devise exciting and engaging ways to execute a show. It’s only a shame that the audience is treated to mere glimpses of it.
 
Still, it’s important to keep in mind that this is Cofield’s Melbourne Fringe Festival debut. While not perfect, the mildly amusing Woolly represents an admirable first effort. This is the festival in which ideas bud and eventually grow into something truly wonderful - and you get the sense that Cofield, in boasting a brand of quirky that is a perfect fit for Fringe, might have something.
 
BY NICK MASON