World-class theatre at its most captivating and alluring, British playwright Mike Bartlett's Olivier Award-winning play Cock will shake you to the core at the Alexander Upstairs Theatre.
This is definitely the best that theatre has to offer: astute and imaginative direction, powerhouse performances and a crackling script. What more could any theatre lover ask for?
A brilliant and provocative title, Bartlett was inspired by a cock fight and that's exactly what the play deals with: a settled gay man and impassioned young woman fighting over the same man, with the cocky young stud having to decide which side of the fence offers greener pastures.
Winner of the 2010 Olivier Award for Outstanding Achievement in An Affiliate Theatre, Mike Bartlett's sharp, witty script takes a candid look at one man's sexuality and the difficulties that arise when faced with a whole new world of possibility.
The deceptive faces of love
A poignant and heartfelt exploration of the deceptive faces of love and the eternal search for meaning and understanding in a world corrupted by logic and stripped of emotion, Cock powerfully deals with a situation that is all too familiar: two people who love the same person, or one person who falls in love with two opposites.
As Bartlett states in the play, the real issue is not 'who we sleep with', but with 'what we sleep with'. Characters that are stripped of their humanity vividly burst to life with their own distinct and unique personalities during the play. The nameless and faceless become real people and the truth of their humanness surfaces through the course of the action - and their true selves are eventually revealed and revered.
In Cock, it's all about John, a gay man whose encounter with a woman leaves him clueless and not knowing how to make sense of the madness that threatens his idyllic existence. Francis Chouler delivers an astounding performance as John, which is guaranteed to break your heart; flirting with the playful joy of a young man trapped in love and loving, and a man acutely pondering the reason for his existence and gleefully exploring his sexuality, Chouler mesmerizes with the tiniest detail of each emotion. When he laughs, you share his joy and when he is furious, you tremble with fear. There are moments that he is so fragile that he could easily dissolve into nothing. At the end, when he has to resolve the predicament he finds himself in, it is one of the most endearing moments you will never forget and take home with you.
The older lover
Equally brilliant is Matt Newman as the older lover whose patience is tested to the extreme; Newman superbly captures the fragile disposition of man caught between obsession and possession, someone who wants but is not always capable of having. Newman skilfully draws us into the trust and passion his character radiates and allows us to empathise with the unfortunate circumstances that test his love and friendship.
Melissa Hayden is gorgeous as the 'manly' opposition whose character dares to step into the heart and soul of a gay man, finding unexpected joy and heartbreaking awakening. Haiden seduces the senses and is perfectly cast as the other woman, allowing us to grasp an understanding of someone who finds true love and whose romantic and idealistic aspirations are confronted.
The chemistry between the three lovers sizzles; tender moments of loving are brilliantly contrasted with eruptive and soul-destroying outbursts, then balanced with dramatic moments that question serious issues, and other playful moments that show the innocent and playful joy of sharing moments that count with a lover.
It's an intimate experience and suits the Alexander Upstairs perfectly; with its effective theatre-in-the-round setting, the set comprises a white square and white platform that mutates into various spaces, from a living room, to a patio, to a bedroom, with Griffiths' unique approach. It's almost as if the characters are trapped in a euphoric limbo as we flash through their respective lives and experience fleeting moments of their existence.
Isn't that how we actually see life? Not as a whole but in detailed moments that add up to an entire relationship with the dull moments edited out.
This offers a unique experience, with the fast-paced plot revealing flashes of the characters' journey, contrasting blissful lovemaking with agonising arguing.
Instead of relying on the conventional setting of sitting around a dinner table, Griffith sets this convention free and allows the scene to unfold in the open space, allowing us to complete the picture. Pure magic.
With acidic wit, sharp humour and dramatic flair, Cock is an emotional journey into the hearts and souls of vibrant characters.
Speak to the heart
It's plays like Cock that speak to the heart and allow us to take a closer look at those we love and those who love us. It affords us a unique opportunity of seeing ourselves through the eyes of someone else.
The play broke my heart and it is sure to break yours, with love and understanding. Make sure to see it before it ends on 14 March, with performance times at 9pm from Monday to Saturday. Under-18s must be accompanied by a parent or legal guardian.
Book securely online by visiting shows.alexanderbar.co.za. You can also purchase tickets in person at the bar anytime during our regular opening hours (Monday to Saturday, 11am to 1am). For telephone bookings and enquiries: +27 (0)21 300 1652. The Alexander Bar & Café is situated at 76 Strand Street (Corner Loop), Cape Town CBD. Bar open Mondays to Saturdays from 11am until at least 1am. Sandwiches, light meals, cheese boards and snacks served until midnight. Read more about Cock and more live theatre: www.writingstudio.co.za