Review: Cock, Minerva

Mike Bartlett’s Cock receives a stirring revival from director Kate Hewitt at Chichester’s Minerva Theatre 

“I suppose I like both, but that’s okay isn’t it, that’s okay?”

Sometimes you look back at a cast you’ve seen and think wow, I’m glad I booked for that. The original Royal Court production of Mike Bartlett’s Cock – revived here at Chichester’s Minerva – had a cast that included no less than Katherine Parkinson, Andrew Scott and Ben Whishaw enclosed in the claustrophobic intimacy of Miriam Buether’s brilliant design. So no pressure for director Kate Hewitt to live up to, honest…

And it is pressure that she lives up to, mainly because Bartlett’s play remains as fresh as a daisy (chain) nearly 10 years after it was written. Its exploration of fluid sexuality feels ripped out of the frothing mouth of clickbait-muffin Piers Morgan, its rejection of conventional sexual identity labels still a key issue for many, the complication of the dating world in the 21st century as sharply pertinent as ever.

This is personified in Luke Thallon’s John. After being shacked up with a guy for seven years, a chance encounter on his commute leads him into his first sexual relationship with a woman. Is he no longer gay? Is he now bisexual? Can he decide which of his lovers – Matthew Needham’s M or Isabella Laughland’s F – he wants to stay with? Will society let him make the decision he wants to or force him into something more conventional.

Hewitt clearly has a keen sense of the adversarial nature of Bartlett’s knife-sharp writing and with Georgia Lowe’s design opening out the Minerva into the round, relishes in its gladiatorial nature. Guy Hoare’s lighting counts out the rounds as it flashes between scenes but the contact here remains linguistic, who needs physical contact when words can cut this deep?

Thallon is excellent as he plays his paramours off of each other, Laughland’s clear-sightedness as a woman who knows what she wants versus Needham’s witty but desperate man who knows just how much he has to lose. And in the end, that’s what Cock is all about, that need for human connection and the significance we give to it when we give it a name.

Running time: 90 minutes (without interval)
Photos: The Other Richard
Cock is booking at the Minerva Theatre until 27th October

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