• Dress Circle Reviews

COCK Review


The West End’s latest offering is a revival of Mike Barlett’s play “COCK”. With it’s provocative title it’s certain to get people’s attention and it happily provides an endless array of puns. And they have collected a solid cast which is sure to have audiences rising up in applause.


While the title is provocative though, the play itself isn’t. It focuses on John (Jonathan Bailey), a gay men living with his long-term boyfriend (“M” played by Taron Egerton), who finds himself being attracted to and eventually sleeping with a woman (“W” played by Jade Anouka). John needs to learn who he is and what he really wants having identified as gay for so many years. And what does it mean for his relationship with both “M” and “W”?


It's nice to have a slight twist on the usual coming out story but the play focuses too much on the idea that someone being bisexual is unusual or not possible. The idea all these characters would be questioning bisexuality so much in 2022 feels outdated, even if it might have worked more as a storyline 13 years ago. But where the play does feel real is in the development of relationships between each of the characters. The strength of the play is in how the characters react to the betrayals and deal with the aftermath of that.


“COCK” director Marianne Elliot is reunited with Jonathan Baily. After she garnered him an Olivier nomination (and win) for his fabulous portrayal as Jamie in “Company” it looks like she is trying to do the same here. He doesn’t leave the stage for plays 105 minutes running time and he has the audience’s attention throughout. John is a weak-willed individual unable to make a decision but still able to manipulate people. He seems unable to make a deeper connection, his detachment emphasised by the fact that his partners don’t even get names. Taron Egerton and Jade Anouka are both impressive as “M” and “W” respectively. Taron Egerton is brilliant as he turns into a bitchy queen, hurt by his partner, yet never succumbs to a stereotype. Jade Anouka plays a strong a determined “W”. And Phil Daniels is a delight as “M”’s father, there to explain to John who he is and what he wants.


The play at times tries to make certain social points but often those lines feel forced into the script. It is at its best when it lets the dialogue flow. While there are heartfelt moments the script is supremely witty and is only made better by the clever direction. It was smart decision to have only faded reflective walls as the set. These feel claustrophobic for the cast but particularly for John who (through his more neutral costume) always seems more reflected in those walls, but it’s never a clear image. And the lack of any further set allowed the focus to remain on the standout performances of the cast who didn’t need any gimmicks. (As none of the cast were stiff or wooden I’m unable to put that phrase in here.)


The script for the play is hilarious but any weaknesses it has are overshadowed by the stellar cast and direction. It only has a short run so I’d urge anyone to see this if they can. Tickets available here


Rating: 4 Star



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