This has certainly been a good year for plays with dirty-sounding titles; but as with Pornography
, the title of Mike Bartlett's play Cock
isn't to be taken too literally. The play is
, to a great extent, about sex, but Ben Whishaw has said he feels the title refers to his character's personality (I can't disagree) while designer Miriam Buether has interpreted it by designing the set to look like a cockpit (in the cockfighting sense, not the aeroplane sense) with the audience surrounding a pit where the actors fight verbally rather than physically. One line describes an encounter as the ultimate bitch-fight, which is a pretty fair description of the show as a whole, almost every moment features two or more of the actors verbally crossing swords.
John (Whishaw) had broken up with his boyfriend M (Andrew Scott) when he met W (Katherine Parkinson, from The I.T. Crowd
) and had sex with her. But then he tries to get back together with M, and finds that he can't decide which of the two he wants to be with. Once we've seen John's relationships with both M and W, we end up with a disastrous dinner party where all three try to resolve the issue. John's secret motive for this is to pit the two against each other, hoping it'll help him choose between them. An added complication is that John has lied that W is a big, manly woman, so M has also invited his father F (Paul Jesson) along in case things get ugly.
does have things to say about sexuality not always being black and white (John maintains throughout that he still regards himself as gay, and W is the only woman he's ever fancied) its main strength is in the snapppiness of the dialogue - the characters may be being horrible to each other most of the time, but it's very funny to watch. All four actors make the most of the dialogue but Andrew Scott really stands out and gets the biggest laughs with some really snappy delivery. As with the last play I saw him in, Roaring Trade
, Scott seems to be a good example of talent being sexy because when he walks on stage he's really not that attractive but by the end he seems to have got me going all proper like. The biggest problem with the play overall is just why so many people are transfixed by the immature, manipulative John (even F is determined that his son get to stay with someone who's clearly going to do nothing but keep breaking his heart.) I guess the fact that he's played by Ben Whishaw will explain it for a lot of people (the entire membership of ohnotheydidnt
seem to be transfixed by his beauty) but personally he doesn't quite do it for me (even with about a week's worth of stubble he's incredibly feminine.) That, and the fact that the conclusion is overly drawn out in places, are the only real drawbacks though, I'd be strongly recommending the show if the entire run hadn't long since sold out.Cock
by Mike Bartlett is booking until the 19th of December at the Royal Court Jerwood Theatre Upstairs.