Stylish, funny and yet also thought provoking, this revival of Mike Bartlett’s play is certainly worth catching if you can.

(c)Brinkhoff Moegenburg

Despite a few jokes and references to it – this is not a play that is specifically about that despite its title, but rather a close examination of sexuality and being defined by a label as seen through a fascinatingly complex relationship between three people.

Mike Bartlett’s 2009 play focuses on John (Jonathan Bailey) – a man who is in a relationship with M (Taron Egerton) but soon realised he is in love with a woman (Jade Anouka). While John is on many levels quite selfish, this is a play that actually highlights and asks questions about whether we should as individuals be defined by labels and is it who or what that we believe that we are attracted to the most important factor.

Directed with great style and sharpness by Marianne Elliott, this production is fascinated to watch unfold – due in part to the way in which it uses movement and only occasional moments in which the characters touch each other to great effect. In particular, one stand out (excuse the pun) moment is when John and W are having sex and the discussion surrounding it is delightfully hilarious – they don’t touch at all and it is almost (like so many other relatively intimate moments) choreographed like a dance. By doing things like this, it enhances awkwardness and sense of separation from the world around him that surrounds John as he attempts to decide who he is – despite increasing pressure from M and W – then eventually from M’s father at an extremely tense and difficult dinner party.

(c)Brinkhoff Moegenburg

This whole production gives plenty for the audience to think about, thanks to the direct way in which Mike Bartlett uses such blunt but effective language to really showcase the many different arguments surrounding identity and sexuality which seem powerfully relevant at the moment. This is perhaps better seen early on, when the audience sees the intimate moments that John shares with both M and W – with Taron Egerton’s deliciously sharp and at times sarcastic M in particular really pushing John to make a decision in sometimes cruel ways to mask his own feelings of hurt.

But it is also a fascinating to see the way in which John subtly changes his mannerisms to suit and to try and be the person that each M and W want him to be. While Jonathan Bailey as John subtly captures the selfishness of his character, he also beautifully showcases the growing sense of isolation and fury his character feels at having to choose which part of himself he has to be. It is a mesmerising and charismatic performance. But he is well matched with Taron Egerton’s somewhat sharp M – using each line of dialogue to enhance the character’s underlying anger, frustration and pain at John’s attitude, the way he breaks down during the dinner party is heartbreaking to watch. Jade Anouka as W delivers a warm and fascinating performance – trying to reach John in a more sympathetic and calmer way that is charming to watch. The cast is completed with a dependable performance from Phil Daniels as F who attempts to get through to John in a more upfront way – to little effect.

(c)Brinkhoff Moegenburg

It may only be a short play, but Cock really delivers a punch from start to finish – the audience is completely engrossed with what is happening on stage from start to finish. It is a sensitive and stylish production that is worth catching if you can.

By Emma Clarendon

Cock continues to play at the Ambassadors Theatre until the 4th June. Huge thanks to SeatPlan for Love London Love Culture’s ticket. SeatPlan collates user-submitted seat photos and reviews to help theatregoers find and book the best seats for their budget. We feature venues in London and UK regional, with a theatre token rewards scheme for anyone uploading their view from seat photos. Please see Seatplan’s page for the Ambassadors Theatre here: https://seatplan.com/london/ambassadors-theatre/seating-plan/ 

Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐