MIKE BARTLET’S ‘COCK’ @ FLIGHT PATH THEATRE : A DEEP DIVE

We human beings like to put lables on ourselves and each other. We do so  in so many ways. Our careers, our personality type, our type of intelligence, our sexuality. The list is endless. Life is difficult and at times chaotic. Why shouldn’t we try to make things simpler, easier?! The thing is that by this process we can set limits that we might later fight against.

This is what British playwright Mike Bartlett asks us to take at in his 2009 play COCK which premiered at the Royal Court Theatre, London in 2099 and has struck a chord with audiences in such diverse locations as Australia, New York, Los Angeles, Manilla and Montreal.

The play starts with a break up scene. John says goodbye to M (presumably standing for ‘a male’) that he doesn’t want to be together anymore, that after seven years he doesn’t feel like that their relationship is going any where and that they argue too much.

Some time later they meet up. John expresses how much he misses him. Their meeting goes off the rails when John tells that he has had sexual encounters with a woman, simply named W. John replies, paraphrasing, I know I am but this happened, I can’t work it, and I am still seeing her.

John and M have both entered unchartered waters. John doesn’t know how to steer. So much of his identity has revolved around being gay. How does he integrate what has happened, and reshape his identity?!

Bartlett’s characters are very well drawn.

Schofield’s John is a decent, kind, introspective guy who is at his best when life is going smoothly but can easily get rattled. John’s realisation that he is bisexual, after so much of his identity has been wrapped up in being gay, leaves him in pieces, and much of the play is about how he tried to put himself back together again. Schofield gives a poignant, well measured performance.

Andrew Lindqvist’s portrayal of M has a strong physicality in  portrayal of a gay man who has been the dominant man in his relationship and then finds the rug being pulled from under his feet.

Grace Stamas is excellent as W, an assured, sensual young woman who seductively draws John and fiercely tries to keep him, offering  to give him a marriage and family.

Richard Cotter’s impresses as F,  John’s committed, fierce father who gets right behind his son and the relationship that he had been cultivating for so long.

Darrin Redgate’s fine production is a remounting of a previous production that he staged in Adelaide in December 2022. He has written that this is an even grittier one.

Casey Moon-Watton’s set and lighting design and Seren Liu’s lighting and sound design created the world for the actors to work in.

Redgate retains and reinforces Bartlett’s very pared back style. There was no scenery, no furniture, no props and no miming. For this style to work it requires great direction and acting which was on display. With the audience imagining so much of the action, the impact felt  greater.

Whilst everything says that John and W are having a passionate, intense affair, we never see them kiss, whilst we see John and M kiss.  A kind of subtext?!

This was one of the best shows of the year so far. A deep dive. My take is it is about how life can sometime  throw one a big curve ball, with things dramatiucally changing, and one is at a loss what to do next. Therein lies the very fraught journey.

Mike Bartlett’s COCK opened at the Flight Path Theatre 142 Addison Road Marrickville on Thursday 9th May and plays until Saturday 18th May 2024.

http://www.flightpaththeatre.org

 

 

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