Cock – Mike Bartlett

cock

First per­formed at the Royal Court Jer­wood The­atre Upstairs, Lon­don, on Novem­ber 13, 2009.

Orig­i­nal Cast:

John                      Ben Whishaw
M                            Andrew Scott
W                            Kather­ine Parkin­son
F                             Paul Jesson

Direc­tor:  James Mac­don­ald
Designer:  Miriam Buether
Light­ing:  Peter mum­ford
Sound:  David McSeveney

Pub­li­ca­tion:  Bartlett, Mike. Cock. Methuen Drama, 2009. Drama Library PR6102.A7838 C63 2009b

Set­ting:  The present.

Lan­guage:  Con­tem­po­rary; lots of run-on thoughts, long pauses, breaks in character’s lines, and moments when they say nothing

M

What are you? Most peo­ple seem to come together pretty well, their atoms hold, and you can look at them and go oh, that’s my mate Steve, that’s the queen, but you, you don’t seem to have grown coherently

You’re a col­lec­tion of things that don’t amount

You’re a sprawl

A mob.

You don’t add up.

Genre/Style:  Serio-Comedic

Plot:   John, who has been in a long-term gay rela­tion­ship with M, meets and falls in love with a woman, W, and has to decide who he is and who he wants to be with.  The play is staged with­out fur­ni­ture or props so that all of the audience’s focus is on the action of the drama unfold­ing in front of them.  Most of the scenes in the play are short and sparse, leav­ing a lot of room for an actor’s inter­pre­ta­tion.  The only scene that feels a lit­tle unreal in the play is the Who’s Afraid of Vir­ginia Woolfish din­ner party attended by John, M, W, and F, M’s father.  It seems highly unlikely that John would agree to have his two lovers meet face-to-face to hear his deci­sion over din­ner.  Add to that M’s father, and the scene threat­ens to tip the play from real­ism to near farce.  Also, even though the other char­ac­ters allude to their befud­dle­ment as to why they want him so much, I’m not quite con­vinced that John is worth all of the soul-searching, heartache, and tur­moil that he causes his two lovers.  In a play where char­ac­ters fight not to be defined by their sex­u­al­ity, but their iden­tity, there is very lit­tle on view in John’s case.  We never even find out what he does.  A lot of his charm would have to depend on the actor por­tray­ing him because, as writ­ten, he appears child­ish, inde­ci­sive, com­pletely self-absorbed, and a bit of a cipher. Of course, both M and W have some unpleas­ant char­ac­ter traits as well.  W comes across as com­bat­ive, defen­sive, and overly solic­i­tous of John, who doesn’t seem wor­thy of her fierce loy­alty; M is con­trol­ling, belit­tling of John, and fights dirty by invit­ing his dad to din­ner, but he’s also gen­uinely hurt by John’s betrayal and seems to hon­estly love him.

 

 

 

Rep­re­sen­ta­tive Mono­logues:  Mono­logues con­tain the first few lines and the last few lines; please con­sult the pub­lished text for the mono­logue in its entirety.

p.33–34:  W explains why she hates week­ends. John’s line can be cut.

W

It’s week­ends that are the prob­lem. Weeks are fine, they’re great. Friday-night par­ties, after-work drinks this is when you’re in your ele­ment, you can do what you want, but it gets to Sat­ur­day after­noon.… [Lines cut] What would it be like, could we spend our whole lives togtehr , and look­ing I’m going to be hon­est shit—Jesus I’m really talk­ing here.

[JOHN

It’s fine.]

W

I mean I’m so jeal­ous of the ones that I think are really in love. [Lines cut] …I’ll never do it again I would rather be on my own that do that how­ever fuck­ing lonely I get. Ha!

p.87–88:  John talks about com­ing out and being defined by words and how it’s not about the sex of the per­son you love but who they are.  M’s lines can be cut.

JOHN

You want to know what I am okay okay I don’t know okay.

When I was at uni and I finally decided I’d do it and come out, all these peo­ple hugged me and were proud of me and said how brave I was and sud­denly peo­ple were touch­ing me… [Lines cut] Gay straight, words from the six­ties made by our par­ents, sound so old, only invented to get rights, and we’ve got rights now so

[M

Some rights, not enough and…how did we get on to this?]

JOHN

They’re hor­ri­ble hor­ri­ble words what they do how they stop you

[M

 / ‘hor­ri­ble words’]

JOHN

and I can see now I can see tht it’s about who the per­son is. Not man or woman but What they’re like. What they do. [Lines cut] So why are you telling me that what I sleep with is more impor­tant tha[n] who I sleep with?

p.90–91:  M tries one last time to keep John.

M

So the dessert was cheese­cake here it is:  cheese­cake. I made your favourite John your favourite in all the world, a nice cheese­cake I think it was going to be a tac­tic a final ges­ture in case things   hadn’t gone well…[Lines cut] There’s your cheese­cake, if you feel like stay­ing with me for a bit you could have some we culd share a piece if you like but you’re going with her aren’t you so you should prob­a­bly fuck off now, and me and Dad’ll eat it instead. Bye.

p.93–94:  W tries one last time to con­vince John to leave with her.  John’s line can be cut.

W

So I’ll go for ever, and me wear­ing your shirt, in a hotel in Paris, walk­ing around glimpses of what’s between my legs,

[JOHN

/ Fuck]

W

all of that and every­thing else in the future, all leav­ing, all going, me preg­nant eat­ing bis­cuits and then the hos­pi­tal bed, every­thing you described to me, every­thing we imag­ined, you hold­ing my hand, and Jack’s born and grows up there he is…[Lines cut] …and you’ll be left with him. Just him.

[Lines cut]

Bye.

 

 

Rep­re­sen­ta­tive Scenes:  All of the scenes in the play before the din­ner party at the end are two-person scenes, either M-M or M-F, so there are a lot to choose from.

p. 14–17:  John has returned home with a gift of teddy bears after hav­ing left M.   M is sus­pi­cious and John finally con­fesses that he’s slept with some­one else, a woman.  Starts with

M

So what have you done?

and ends with

JOHN

I am.

It was a week ago.

p.43–47:  John meets W to tell her they can’t see each other any­more because M knows.  Starts with

JOHN

I don’t know how to explain this but the thing is you have to stop fol­low­ing me.

and ends with

W

So?

Sugar.

What are you going to do?

 

 

 

Select Bib­li­og­ra­phy of Reviews and Crit­i­cism:  (Note:  arti­cle title links are to the online ver­sions, mostly UW-only restricted unless des­ig­nated as open access.)

Bene­dict, D. (2009). COCK. Vari­ety, 417(3), 40.

Billing­ton, M. (2009, Nov 19). Reviews: The­atre: Cock: Royal court, lon­don 3/5. The Guardian, pp. 38.

Hem­ming, S. (2009, Nov 21). Cock. Finan­cial Times, pp. 14.

Letts, Q. (2009, Nov 19). Quentin letts first night review [edi­tion 2]. Daily Mail, pp. 30.

Sierz, A. (2009). A com­pelling com­bi­na­tion of sharp writ­ing and act­ing tal­ent. Stage, (6709), 19.

Soloski, A. (2012, May 23). Cock: Fight club. [open access] The Vil­lage Voice, pp. 1.

Spencer, C. (2009, Nov 19). First night cock royal court tame tale whim­pers to the end. The Daily Tele­graph, pp. 35.

Tay­lor, P. (2009, Nov 23). A bril­liant study in bisex­u­al­ity. The Inde­pen­dent, pp. 16.

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