A clever and engaging look at a man (John) battling with his need to choose between the devoted gay lover he lives with (M) and his first female attraction (W) who is desperate for him. Their full on fight for him and his increasing stress as he tries to choose between them is brilliantly portrayed in a very sharp, part-funny part-tragic dialogue excellently delivered by this strong cast. Their battle further emphasised by the devoted lover’s father (F) who is dragged in for support by his son.

The play is excellently staged on a bare stage. When they say they are in the living room, or on the terrace or in W’s flat – we just take their word for it. Similarly, when they say they are sitting at a table, eating dinner, drinking wine or answering the door we believe that too – even though the actors are standing up, have no props, are doing no miming and are focussed simply and totally on their relationships with each other.

The sex scene between John and F is fascinating and thoroughly convincing although the characters are both fully clothed, fully engaged with each other and circling touch-free and several meters apart.

Benjamin Louttit plays the confused and central character John very skilfully. We can see his inner chaos between the gay person he always thought he was and the straight guy he seems to be now and he has met the challenge in a way that gives the audience the ability to feel a fluctuating variety of frustration, sympathy and support. Drew Holmes is a wonderful M skilfully rocketing between the possessive, amusing, witty lover and furious, tearful potential reject. He cleverly only shows the character’s domineering, bitter side at the very end. His father F, strongly presented by Alan Glover, strives to forcefully support his gay son while hiding his struggle with his own lonely life. Elise Bialek is wonderful in her skilled portrayal of a complex and determined W desperate to win John from M by any means possible. One minute wooing, the next dictating, trying a polite approach and then fizzing fury, her struggle is admirable one minute and scary the next.

Mike Bartlett’s play is fast and funny with engaging characters that each attract audience sympathy. One minute you feel John is struggling and needs your support. Then M is trying so hard to keep John’s love you want to help him. Again, W is so devoted and offering John such a warm future. The poor dad F is lost and struggling to help. It may be a bit too long as once the characters and their dilemma were fully established and they were battling over dinner at John and M’s house I felt the audience was ready for the sad ending a couple of scenes before we got it. That, however, is a minor criticism of a play that was otherwise totally engaging. Cock premiered at the Royal Court in London, winning a 2010 Olivier Award. We are lucky to have the chance to see it here.

Mathew Lee’s direction is very impressive. With no set or props the focus is entirely on the actors and performance and this has clearly been taken to full advantage. The scene changes are simple and effective with entrances minimised and arrivals cleverly staged.

Kath Perry – Theatre Now & On The Town


Cock by Mike Bartlett
Presented by Stooged Theatre
Directed by Mathew Lee
Assisted by Charlotte De Wit
Set Design by Don Haiser & Gary Lee
Lighting Design by Elese Murray
Featuring

Benjamin Louttit as John, Drew Holmes as M, Elise Bialek as W & Alan Glover as F

Venue: The Royal Exchange – 34 Bolton Street, Newcastle
Season: Thursday 9 November – Sunday 19 November
Performances: 7.30pm start, Sundays begin at 5pm
Running time: 90 mins, no interval
Price: $30 adult, $25 concession
Bookings: https://www.trybooking.com/307980

Images:
Photography by Stewart Hazell.
Elise Bialek, Drew Holmes, Alan Glover and Benjamin Louttit
Drew Holmes, Alan Glover, Benjamin Louttit and Elise Bialek
Benjamin Louttit and Drew Holmes
Benjamin Louttit and Elise Bialek

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