"Bartlett’s examination of sexual identity"
by Jill Lawrie for remotegoat on 05/10/18

Now playing in the Minerva Theatre is a major revival of Mike Bartlett’s domestic drama “Cock” and although written nearly a decade ago, still feels surprisingly contemporary in our current gender fluid society. Bartlett was just 29 when he wrote this tragicomedy while living temporarily in a gay district in Mexico. He has since won many awards for his work including an Olivier for “King Charles III”, Outstanding Achievement in an Affiliate Theatre for “Bull” another blistering four-hander and of course wrote the hugely successful TV drama “Dr Foster” and “Press” which is airing now.
“Cock” centres around a love triangle giving a provocative glimpse into an ailing relationship with a long-term male partner and a new overwhelming attraction to a female. John is utterly confused by his own sexual identity – he is still in love with M and yet emotionally drawn to W! His anxiety, indecision and personal turmoil although comic at times reveals an immense solitude, while he selfishly strings both lovers along, being quite incapable of declaring his preference.

Making her Chichester debut director Kate Hewitt (a previous winner of the JMK Young Director Award and RTST Director Award in 2016) has kept rigidly to the dramatist’s specific radically minimal stage directions, with no use of mime nor props. The bare stage is bordered in red to give an impression of a bullring or cockfight to contain this stripped-down verbally lacerating dialogue full of passion, energy and emotion.

The exceptional quartet is headed by Luke Thallon playing the only named character John. Luke’s portrayal of the confused, immature and dithering individual is outstanding as he attempts to deconstruct his feelings and underlying conflicts. He is admirably supported by Matthew Needham his infuriated long-term partner M. Their connective energy and increasing distance as they orbit around each other is palpable. Isabella Laughland taking the female role of W completes the triangle with magnetic brilliance and real charisma. Simon Chandler plays M’s father arriving to give his son moral support in the final showdown, considerably adding to the conflicting allegiances John is struggling with.
An interesting production of this highly charged, explicit explanation of sexual identity, love and loneliness.

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