Review: Cock (Bosco Productions)

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Julian Curtis and Derek Draper in Bosco Productions’ Cock at Metro Arts. Imagery supplied by Bosco Productions.

Newly-launched Brisbane theatre company Bosco Productions present a tense and engaging production of Mike Bartlett’s contemporary theatre work Cock, directed by Helen Howard and performed by a talented cast of four.

Cock tells the story of John (Julian Curtis), a young man who, while on a break from his long-term boyfriend (Derek Draper) is surprised to find himself attracted to a woman (Ashlee Lollback) for the first time. They begin a relationship, but John is drawn back to the comfort and security of his old life and his old lover. This reluctant love triangle culminates in an incredibly awkward dinner party where, in the midst of an identity crisis and presented with a significant fork in the road of his life, along with additional pressure from his boyfriend’s father (Patrick Farrelly), John remains paralysed by indecision and begins to understand that not making a choice is still a choice.

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(L to R) Ashlee Lollback, Julian Curtis, Patrick Farrelly, and Derek Draper. Imagery supplied by Bosco Productions.

Parts of the play have dated since it first premiered in 2009, but the core themes of questioning identity, sense of self in long-term relationships, and fear of commitment remain relevant. Bartlett’s script is often poetic and peppered with small moments of humour, employing snappy dialogue built from incomplete sentences and thought fragments to create fast-paced and authentically disjointed conversation.

The work explores themes of habit and obligation in relationships as well as the sliding scale of identity and sexuality, and touches on ideas of coming out as being restrictive, viewed as a final commitment rather than a stepping stone in the exploration of self, and of internalised homophobia and the erasure of bisexuality in social narratives that take a binary approach to sexual orientation.

The play was carefully staged, with the opening and subsequent scene transitions choreographed to establish and highlight the relationships between each character as they evolved throughout the work. Costume changes and props were described but neither manifested nor mimed and this, coupled with the almost-bare stage and tightly focused lighting, brought the performances of the actors and the interplay of the characters into absolute focus.

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Derek Draper, Julian Curtis, and Ashlee Lollback. Imagery supplied by Bosco Productions.

John is boyish charm incarnate but ultimately unlikeable in his self-absorption, and Julian Curtis brought this character to life with a playful, frantic energy which bounced perfectly against the self-assuredness of his boyfriend ‘M’, a role to which Derek Draper brought a beautiful balance of aggressive cynicism and genuine emotion. Ashlee Lollback switched seamlessly between sweet good-naturedness and hostile crassness in the role of ‘W’ as the fight between the lovers wore on, and Patrick Farrelly had a strong stage presence as ‘F’ despite his character only engaging in the story for the last few scenes. The cast all created strong connections with one another and managed the onstage tension expertly as power shifted throughout the play.

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Derek Draper and Ashlee Lollback. Imagery supplied by Bosco Productions.

Cock is an emotionally-charged drama that, through the skilful delivery of the cast, allows the audience to simultaneously sympathise with a man and a woman fighting for their lover, a father fighting for his son’s happiness, and a man in the middle who is struggling with who he is as much as who he wants to be with.

Cock is playing at Metro Arts until 31 August. For ticketing and further information, visit Bosco Productions’ Facebook page or the booking page.

Please note: this production is suitable for patrons aged 15+ and contains coarse language and adult themes.

Bosco Productions is an Irish-owned theatre company based in Brisbane, led by Patrick Farrelly and Derek Draper, that aims to challenge audiences with works of substance.

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