Review: Cock


Tron Theatre, Glasgow
9th-20th February 2016
4 Stars (4 / 5)


Less is indeed more in Mike Barlett’s Cock under the direction of Andy Arnold. The sexual exploration of John (James Anthony Pearson) as he swings between a long-term relationship with a man and a newly acquainted woman is set on a bare stage, framed as a brightly lit square, with zero props used throughout the play. This is a brilliant choice for two good reasons. Firstly, it engages the audience more with Bartlett’s well-written dialogue—especially in a fantastically awkward sex scene, during which John and W (Isobel McArthur) merely stand side by side, leaving the audience to imagine the action. Secondly, there is more focus on the actors’ movements in relation to each other.

This minimalist approach, although initially a little difficult to understand, soon becomes essential in reading beyond the action. The characters barely have physical contact, which leaves one yearning for their intimacy on their behalf; a clever dramatic strategy, considering that the humour and quick repartee sometimes comes at the expense of emotional depth. However, at moments certain actors move as if they are instructed to do so instead of using the space organically, and Pearson seems uncertain with how to use his hands. M (Johnny McKnight) and W (Isobel McArthur) are both flawed yet endearing, which makes John’s indecision infuriating but understandable, and perhaps one’s difficulty in liking the main character is what makes Cock so intriguing. Vincent Friell’s role as a supportive father casually sends a strong social message.

Cock is a simply and efficiently executed. The audience shed tears of laughter and sympathy. It gets better and better as it progresses, leaving the most heartbreaking moments till last.