Cock, Chichester Festival Theatre, review: ‘Not a night for the prudish’

Cock is at Chichester Festival Theatre until October 27.
Cock is at Chichester Festival Theatre until October 27.

With a name like Cock, I should have expected a post-watershed play: but from the first two seconds, which contained as many f-bombs, it became quickly clear this was not a night for the prudish.

It begins with a gay couple having a tiff which is trifling compared to the love triangle brewing on the horizon. John bumps into a woman, and unexpectedly falls in love. But he cannot choose between the easy yet unhappy relationship he has or a leap into the unknown with her.

The setting, in the round, sees the Minerva turned into a quasi-wrestling ring; but despite the confrontational nature of the one-act play, there is no physical interaction between the characters, even during sex scenes. They are like magnets repelling each other, bouncing around like today’s world of dating apps and disposable relationships.

When John is forced to choose, I finally felt some kind of empathy towards him. Because until then, I had decided he was such a sociopath that he made Patrick Bateman look like Mother Teresa.

The standout performance here goes to Matthew Needham as John’s boyfriend, whose live-wire, chest thumping, tongue lashing display filled with air with laughter and a fair bit of his own spit. While Mike Bartlett of Doctor Foster fame’s 2009 play is still so relevant, I did find a joke describing the other woman as a ‘tranny’ to be dated.

Still, I would take provocative over pedestrian every day of the week. I’ve got a couple of f-words to describe this show: funny and fiery. Until October 27.