Posted by Cecile Lucas, July 11th, 2017
It’s week three of rehearsals and the COMA LAND team is truly immersed in the grey matter world of Will O’Mahony’s brilliant piece about parents and children, success and failure. One of our favourite characters is Cola, a grumpy yet funny male panda, brilliantly interpreted by actor Ben Sutton. Originally from UK, Ben is a WAAPA Graduate and award-winning actor and comedian with experience spanning from theatre to television and film. Not only is it a delight to watch Ben playing Cola on stage, but it’s also a pleasure to sit down with him and have a quick chat (and a laugh) about this new production and his experience in general.
What was your first impression after reading Coma Land script, and what was it about this play that grabbed you most?
I was really impressed after reading the script for the first time. I thought it was genuinely funny. The world was really intriguing too. There was a feeling of wonder and innocence to it but also an underlying sinisterness, and I really liked that.
What do you see as some of the main ideas behind this play? How do you think audiences will respond?
There’s a fair bit going on in this play. The desire to be normal, not special. Acceptance. Both self and from others. Love. Optimism and saying yes to things, even if it turns out you are getting conned. The need to fly. I have no idea how audiences will respond, but that’s what’s really exciting about it. We shall see!
You play Cola, a male panda. What can you tell us about this character and what is it that you like about him?
I liked Cola as soon as I read the script. He is funny and it seems really fitting that this giant Panda has such a wonderfully cynical and irreverent attitude. He doesn’t give a rats. He mostly just wants to be left alone, without any human interference but he can also be coaxed out of his shell by the right people. And once his guard is down he’s actually quite playful and caring. He’s a panda after all, and they can’t help but be cute.
With a diverse body of work in theatre, television and film, can you share a moment or experience that stands out as formative to you as an actor?
My time at WAAPA was hugely formative. Even though I was a rubbish student, I came out with a real love for stories and a desire to be part of telling them. Up until then I think it had just been about showing off, Y’know? “Look at me on the stage, saying words good!” But to be honest, I think it’s when I finally moved into comedy that stands out as the most formative experience. From working and touring with the Big Hoo Haa as an improvisor, as well as becoming a professional stand up comedian and a writer for film, I learned the importance of self generated material. To not only be a part of the story but to create the story.
How did you become interested in working in the Performing Arts? And how did your parents take it?
I’ve wanted to be an Actor ever since I was a kid. After I landed the lead role of the title role in my primary school’s production of The Selfish Giant, I was hooked. Thankfully, my parents have never been anything but supportive of my choice to work in the arts. I’m very lucky. Although, I did grow up in a rough area in the UK, so I think they were just happy that it wasn’t a career stealing cars or something.
Have you ever considered a career other than actor?
No, not really. I’ve had plenty of jobs but I’ve only ever really considered a career in the arts.
Lastly, can we expect to see you in any other work this year?
Yes, look out for me, and I mean look out for me coz I aint’ there long, in the upcoming Ben Elton feature film Three Summers as well as regularly at local comedy venues like Lazy Susan’s Comedy Den and The Comedy Lounge.