REVIEW: COCK, Tron Theatre

#notaboutchickens

Published by The Student Advertiser.

Whilst I had little to no idea what lay in store for me at the Tron Theatre on Tuesday night, I did endeavour to enjoy the moments leading up to the Scottish debut of Mike Bartlett’s Olivier-winning play Cock profusely, i.e. telling friends I was going to review Cock that evening; confirming the viewing times for Cock with my editor; and afterwards raving about how good Cock was on Tuesday evening. It was all “very mature”.

On arrival, a smiley lady handed everyone a bright red programme with the word ‘COCK’ on the front of it in capital, white letters which only fuelled the badly-repressed adolescent giggles coming from some of Scotland’s finest theatre critics. It would appear as though someone did attempt to PG-13 the situation with the inclusion of two chicken illustrations, too. But Cock is as much a play about cockerels as it is a play about, well, cock itself. The recently invented hashtag #NotAboutChickens circulating on the Tron Theatre’s Twitter foreshadows this indiscreetly – in which case, someone, please… What does cock have to do with any of this?

Well, the play is a fundamental tale of love over lust, personality over looks and whether or not society’s idea of someone is a true representation of how one feels in themselves. The play also happens to be centred John, an openly gay man in a long-term homosexual relationship – could this be our Cock after all? John, whose university friends said he had “really come to be” after he came out over six years ago, finds he has fallen irrevocably in love with a woman whilst still in a homosexual relationship – a woman who he thinks is strange and who thinks he is like a pencil drawing with no colour.

Body parts aside, Cock is a modern-day take on the one of mankind’s oldest, unanswered questions: what do you do when you love someone and fall in­-love with someone else?

Cock is funny – really funny. If not entirely down to Johnny McKnight’s interpretation of John’s boyfriend: a camp, dramatic, emotional and distorted combination of what everyone’s gran and best friend acts (and sounds) like in Scotland. McKnight delivered a sassy rendition of that pal we all share who has the ability to be both heavily exaggerative and painfully accurate at the same time. Bartlett nails Scottish humour in his writing, emphasising the loyalty and talkative nature we Scots are apparently known for by putting John – a stiff and plain Englishman – opposite a boyfriend of M’s nature. Now that’s a thing…

Aside from John, none of the characters in the play have names. Instead, John’s female lover (played by Isobel McArthur) is simply W, his boyfriend M and his boyfriend’s Father (Vincent Friell) F. If we were to speculate, these could be acronyms for Woman, Man and Father. This adds to their anonymity and shows that the outside world recognises them not through their love for one another but their gender. It emphasises that John feels his final decision is as much societal issue as it is a question of who offers him the brightest future. Marriage, babies, family dinners, etc.

The minimalist staging of Cock is worth noting as well given that the entire performance took place inside a cube marked on the stage floor with lighting. The small space appeared reflective of some sort of constraint, be it lack of a way out of the situation due to John’s indecisiveness or the restrictions of society itself. No props were used in the performance, just mime, and dialogue proved extremely important to understanding key scenes such as the extremely graphic sex scene between John and W.

Who knew that two people standing side by side talking, conveying the very moment a gay man loses his heterosexual virginity through moans and awkward chat, could make me so thankful that I did not bring my mother to this event? It was all too reminiscent of horror stories told to us as adolescents, ones your mother should never find out about.

We must acknowledge that society has moved on since the play was first performed in 2009 and we are much more accepting of the LGBT population now than we ever have been (see Glasgow’s PRIDE, for example). Still, there is something we must all learn from Cock (stop giggling): we are who we are and that does not necessarily mean that we fit under a label.

It’s been easy to reflect kindly on Cock and its Scottish revival appeared to be a success with the rest of the small audience in the cosy Tron Theatre on Tuesday night.


See more REVIEWS of theatre and live music on my blog here.

 

 

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