Review: Cock

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Wanton Theatre’s production of Bartlett’s Cock was a gripping triumph of a play. Performed in the round, the audience were totally immersed in the drama unfolding before their eyes.

As the starting bell rang out to signify the start of the figurative cock-fight, Tom Giles and Angus Russell squared up to one another, tracing circles in the sawdust, delivering Bartlett’s bone-jarring lines with radical theatrical inertia and sharp wit. Anoushka Kohli’s engagement with Giles was equally as crisp in its style. Seriousness was interchangeable with comedy and the two actors played off one-another in a startlingly seductive manner. The characters’ relationship was thus something the audience found difficult to fully invest in initially, in concurrence with the authorial intentions of the play – it implores audiences to decide simultaneous to the characters how they feel about each word and action. The lighting was smoothly demonstrated and naturalistic. This was particularly useful in conveying the significance of the play’s thematic content in light of its manifestations in day-to-day life. After all, issues of sexuality and relationships run deep in the veins of modern society and we all find ourselves, like the characters, doing battle with our emotions, striving for a sense of identity.

On a trivial note, I felt that the flickering lights, signifying time lapses, lost some of the play’s realism. Perhaps fades into and out of black could have punctuated these breaks in scene more effectively. The team’s decision to maintain physical distance between the characters was somewhat confusing at first – Russell was “undressed” with Giles’ words rather than hands. The “sex scene” between Giles and Kohli helped make sense of the choice for me, not just for obvious practical reasons(!), but also for the dramatic significance of the carefully considered actions of the actors. Kohli orbited Tom whilst painting the scene for us with her words. Their composure was startling – in spite of stifled sniggers from the audience, the professionalism of the production was maintained throughout. Our attention was thus drawn to the symbolism of each action and word independently and the space created by the actors was effectively manipulated to convey the dynamics of their relationships.

In terms of a stand-out scene, the dinner party was quite literally breath-taking. Dan Jonusas, assuming the role of Russel’s character’s father, toyed with farce and drama with finesse. The line “John, who are you really?” had my teeth gritted and fists clenched and I couldn’t tear my eyes away from the action for a moment. Each moment a supposed “victor” was chosen then dashed away was a blow to the audience, who craned their necks, winced, shed tears. We felt Kohli’s character’s frustration, sensed Russell’s anguish, and frankly despised the character Jonusas had so artfully created! Tom Giles’ role portrayal of John screamed agony in his melancholic silence in the final lines of the play. As the lights dropped I thought to myself “phew, I can breathe easy now!”

The Saints LGBT+ post-show discussion in which actors, production team, audience and brave volunteers participated then clarified, confirmed and probed a range of topics surrounding sexuality and identity and I was delighted to see so many members of the audience had remained to take part. Like me, they likely felt they too could not leave the theatre without a good chat about what we had all witnessed! It was a brilliant end to a phenomenal evening of drama.

5 stars

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