Thursday, October 2, 2014

LEGIT BRIT - COCK

Review for COCK

Rogue Machine Theatre, Monday 22 Sept.  2014

Reviewer Catherine Siggins


With a title like COCK, you might expect to see a sexually explicit production about the exploits and uses of the male sexual organ. Instead what you get is fully-clothed verbal sword fighting in Mike Barltett’sOlivier award-winning tragicomedy about identity and sexual desire.

John (Patrick Stafford), is a young man in a gayrelationship with an older man, M (Matthew Elkins). When John decides he needs to leave the relationship, he meets the feminine and lonely W (Rebecca Mozo), and he falls in love. Conflicted and confused by his feelings, John runs back to M, seeking the help of his former boyfriend to understand what is happening and whyis willing to forgive, and suggests that all three meet for dinner, so they can discuss it all like civilized adults. Both M and W are eager to help John reach a decision, as both think he is going to choose in their favor. What happens is the dinner party turns into a war for emotional supremacy. As M puts it, it’s the ultimate bitch fight. The arrival of M’s father (Gregory Itzin) doesn’t help either. John is pressured into making a choice, but more then that, into deciding “what he is” sexually. Like a child stuck between warring parents, he is being guilt tripped into making an impossible decision, and for John it has devastating results.


Bartletts dialogue is barbed, witty and gets straight to the point, essentially an ultra-modern comedy ofmanners stripped of the drawing-room. Bartlett raises the interesting question of identity, and how we are defined by our sexual preferences in society. Bartlett said he wrote the play as a reaction to why we still feel pressurized into naming what sexual bracket we belong: Gay, Straight or Bi, when really we should be saying ‘I am what I am, and what I am needs no excuses”. As John says ‘“it’s about who the person is. Not man or woman but what they’re like.”


Staged in a small space at Rough Machine Theatre on Pico, the set consists of 3 rows of seating in the round, and a performance space no more then 15 feet in diameter, very much like a cock fighting ring. With no set dressing or props, only the four actors and taut dialogue, it is all about the characters and their dilemma. Scenic Designer, Stephen Gifford, has chosen to boldly decorate the space using visually striking bright emerald green on every surface, walls, floor, seats, painted with a pattern of three Keith Haring-esque lines. This very intimate in-your-facesetting highlights the performers, who manoeuvrephysically and verbally around each other, and it creates the feeling of entrapment John feels internally. More then that, the focus is put directly on the ideas being explored, and the tactics couples use on each other in relationships to maintain control or the status quo.

Under Cameron Watson’s direction, all four performers are riveting to watchPatrick Stafford gives a moving and intense performance as the wide-eyed man-child, John, hungry for unconditional love and safety, eventually brought to his knees, sobbing, silenced with paralyzing indecision. Rebecca Mozo is both girlish and grounded, giving W allure and strength in equal measure, and leaves no doubt as to why she attracts John. Matthew Elkins’ sizzles as peevish stock-broker, M, multi-layered, astute, operatic, vulnerable and highly entertaining, he never misses a beat, and Gregory Itzin gives a touching performance as his father, F, who struggled to accept his son’s homosexuality, but now is enthusiastically onboard, while still maintaining his old school sexism.

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