Mike Barlett’s latest production takes a fresh view on identity and sexuality

La Boite Theatre, Brisbane

April 8, 2014

Following rave reviews from London and a sold-out season in Melbourne, Mike Bartlett’s latest production, Cock, has been equally well-received by Brisbane audiences. Nearing the end of a highly praised season at the La Boite theatre in Kelvin Grove, the play explores the timeworn notion of the love triangle in a fresh, contemporary way.

Although the bold title establishes an expectation for sexual themes and boundary-pushing, the performance was, in fact, heartbreakingly relatable. Exploring themes of love, obligation and fear of the unknown, the play looks at the the sliding scale of identity and sexuality in modern relationships.

Tom Conroy brilliantly portrays the central character of John who, while on a break from his long-term boyfriend, accidentally falls in love with a woman. The boyfriend, played by Eamon Flack, is identified only as ‘M’, presumably for ‘man’, and the woman, played by Sophie Ross, is dubbed ‘W’. John struggles to maintain relationships with both of them, culminating in a dinner party where he is forced to decide between the stagnant relationship in which he has invested himself for seven years and a possible future with a woman who makes him feel important. Pressure builds as M’s father, ‘F’ (played by Tony Rickards), joins them for dinner and adds an outsider’s perspective, telling John that he has to make a choice between liking men or women. Cleverly written so that the audience sympathises with each character in turn – a man who doesn’t understand his partner’s change of heart, a woman who has found love and wants to cling to it, a father wanting the best for his son and a man who doesn’t know what he wants – Cock reminds us that there is never a perfect choice when we walk the fine line between endings and beginnings.

Presented in La Boite’s roundhouse theatre with minimal props and costuming, the play took on a deeper sense of intimacy as the audience focused solely on the characters and their relationships. At several tense moments during the performance, the only sound that could be heard in the theatre was the faint buzz of the lighting equipment overhead. Director Leticia Caceres uses space to create physical triangles between the characters as well as the traditionally figurative ‘love triangle’. The only props were a floor full of white pillows, which were arranged and rearranged during the performance to represent the building and, alternately, demolition of character relationships.

Cleverly written and movingly performed, Cock paints a touching and accurate picture of the modern relationship and the importance of making our choices for ourselves.

Cock will be playing at the La Boite theatre from March 27 – April 12, 2014