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THEATRE: 11 FEBRUARY 2015

By TONI CARROLL

Cock, by Mike Bartlett | Directed by Shane Bosher

Red Line Productions | Old Fitz Theatre, Woolloomooloo, Sydney | Until 6 March

Who’d have thought it would be so difficult to find someone to accompany me to a play called Cock? I’d mistakenly believed that my friends would certainly be up for it (yes, I warn you, the double entendres are too tempting to resist). But I ended up going alone to a Sunday evening performance.

It didn’t matter, though, because Cock is thoroughly engrossing and delectable. Right up my alley (oh, I definitely crossed the line with that one, I’m sure).

Staging in the round was obviously challenging in the tiny Old Fitzroy Theatre space, with chairs lining the walls of the stage itself. But the claustrophobic feeling it induced helped to fuel the emotional intensity of the drama unfolding before us.

Short scene changes using lighting (Michele Bauer) and music (Jeremy Silver) helped to carry us seamlessly through the action and gave us no time to relax.

John (Michael Whalley) and his unnamed gay lover (Matt Minto) are involved in a loving but problematic relationship. After breaking up, John meets and beds a woman, also unnamed (Matilda Ridgway). So begins a messy love triangle that leads to an exploration of sexual orientation and what it means to love and be loved.

The play reflects to us society’s need to define people according to a sexuality binary. John’s long-term lover finds the thought of John being with a woman abhorrent and insulting, and believes it makes a lie of their seven years together. John is asked, at one point, “What are you?” as if what we are is immutable.

But then we are occasionally reminded of the inherent fluidity of sexuality that defies categorisation: “It’s not what we fuck, it’s who we fuck.” Perhaps this idea is intentionally reinforced by not naming either of the two lovers in the dialogue. It’s possible to love people, not gender.

It’s unfortunate that, by the end, the fact of John’s bisexuality still seems to be considered a bit dodgy.

But this was far from a turgid tragedy or sudsy soap opera. Mike Bartlett’s writing is sharp and rapid-fire, finding the funny within emotional upheaval and modern-day angst. The three actors at the points of the love triangle take the dialogue and run with it, giving it great timing and depth. Due to illness, Brian Meegan performed script-in-hand as the dad of John’s gay lover. He did a superb job and melded easily with the ensemble’s dynamic.

Director Shane Bosher did a great job allowing the writing and the actors to shine. The blocking in such a difficult space was exceptional, effectively transporting us from a living room to a bus stop, to a backyard, to a dinner party, all within an empty space with neither backdrops nor props.

The sex scenes were the sexiest I have ever witnessed, although no clothes were removed, and the actors never touched. The actors brought such heat to the choreographed movement around each other, they may as well have been stark naked.

In all, Cock is engorged and throbbing with entertainment and thought-provoking action (I couldn’t resist one last gratuitous double entendre!)

Matt Minto and Michel Whalley.

Michel Whalley and Matilda Ridgeway.