Cock

07 Feb-22 Mar,

Melbourne,

Theatre,

Theatre Reviews

Critics' choice
4

With a cheeky title and stinging dialogue, Cock was an off-Broadway hit in 2012 by British playwright Mike Bartlett and looks to be equally popular here

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Reviewers from London to New York have had to choose their words carefully when expressing their feelings about Cock: even mild regret about its brevity (1h40m) could be quoted out of context. Similarly, any superlatives, adjectives such as "magnificent" or judgments about its universal appeal (none of which are entirely warranted by Mike Bartlett's nonetheless very entertaining script) would be best be expressed without direct reference to the attention-grabbing title that has embarrassed and amused people from ushers ("Are you here for Cock? You're a bit late") to subscribers ("I'm simply not interested in seeing Cock.")

No praise need be minced concerning the excellent performance of all the actors, conspicuously Tom Conroy as the pivotal character John, who cheats on his long-term boyfriend, M, with what his probably his first woman, W. It culminates in a farcical dinner party, at which John is asked to make his choice. Conroy shows us the anxiety born of having too many semi-satisfactory options, a predicament faced by most people in the developed world.

But even though the story is a twisted love triangle – with a very male angle – the provocative title is not really representative. The central topic of the play is really John's monumental indecisiveness: not merely on the question of his sexual orientation, but who he is and what he wants. John goes so far as to remark that he has no character. He's not so much against commitment as immune to it.

For a dramatist, indecision is a difficult quality to illustrate: thinking isn't easy to portray directly as action, and ineffective, fuzzy thinking is even more nebulous, but Bartlett rises to the challenge like a sarcastic, postmodern Chekhov. You have to admire his skill and audacity, as well as that of director Leticia Caceres, for delivering to a mostly middle-aged subscriber audience the thrill and pain of Cock.

Not everyone will appreciate the way Caceres handled it: designer Marg Horwell placed no scenery other than two enormous angled walls luxuriously lit by Rachel Burke, with no props but countless pillows covering the stage. Whereas the naturalistic script calls for a dinner with a table and chairs, actors stand and move across the stage without impediment from these imagined objects, as freely as the ankle-high pillows permit. If you are willing to suspend fundamental physical beliefs, this arguably allows the actors to be presented more forcefully. But whether they admire or loathe the stylised setting, most people will find the characters engrossing and the dialogue captivating, even if they don't entirely love Cock.

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First published on . Updated on .

By Cat Jasons   |  

Cock details

Arts Centre Melbourne


Address
Fairfax Studio
100 St Kilda Rd

Melbourne 3004

Transport
Nearby Stations: Flinders St

Telephone 03 8688 0800

Price from $33.00 to $99.00

Date 07 Feb-22 Mar

Open Various

Director: Leticia Caceres

Cast: Tom Conroy, Angus Grant, Missy Higgins

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