Review Roundup: COCK by Red Turnip Theater
Manila, Philippines--British playwright-director Mike Bartlett's COCK, "a tense comedy about sexual identity," which premiered in London in 2009, opened yesterday, March 7, at event venue Whitespace (2314 Chino Roces Ave. Extension, Makati City). COCK, directed by Rem Zamora--his directorial debut-- is the second offering of new theater company Red Turnip Theater. The show runs until Sunday, April 6.
Red Turnip Theater's production of COCK, which showcases the acting foursome of Topper Fabregas, Niccolo Manahan, Jenny Jamora, and Audie Gemora, is an exploration of John's (Fabregas) choices about which path of romance to pursue: When John takes a break from his longtime boyfriend (Manahan), he unintentionally falls in love with a woman (Jamora). Trapped between two lovers, John now feels the emotional tug-of-war as neither his boyfriend nor the new woman in his life wants to lose him.
Zamora, alongside lighting designer John Batalla, set designer Dennis Lagdameo, and sound designer Jethro Joaquin, stages COCK with no props, traditional scenery, or furniture.
New let's hear what the critics had to say:
Ibarra Mateo, GMA News: Fabregas, Manahan, Jamora, and Gemora (who entered the deadly combat zone in the last 30 minutes) should be commended for evenly sustaining the intense energy and passions of the characters during the 90 minutes of the play, without intermission.
The four showed the nuanced emotional strength demanded in almost all the scenes to deliver a show with the brutality of a person willing to shed blood to protect his interest in the face of an imminent danger.
Without any props to assist them and with only a bare set and great lighting, the cast had to rely on their acting skills and their bodies to convey the intent of the scriptwriter and the director.
Zamora, in his attempt to show the audience the progress of the play, had his characters appear on stage one pair at a time most of the time. He made one pair of characters face each other, turn to the audience, walk around each other, at one point rhythmically moving sideways as if lost in a trance.
Jenilee Chuaunsu, Pep.Ph: The theater-in-the-round stage (wherein the viewers surround the stage area) mimics an arena and creates an intimate atmosphere. It feels as though the audience is listening in on a very private conversation. Some audience members get to sit three feet away from the actors, so the fourth wall is removed. It feels as though the actors are in the same plane as the audience. One of the challenges of theater-in-the-round staging is that there are times when the actors have their backs to the audience. During intense scenes, it can be frustrating when you can't see the actor's face. The actors have to constantly move around, so the audience can get a good view...
Topper Fabregas, as John, epitomizes ambiguity and indecision. For 90 minutes, the audience watches him oscillate between his male lover M and female lover W. In the hands of a less talented actor, John could easily come off as a heartless jerk, but Topper shows his neuroticism and genuine confusion.
As M, Niccolo Manahan is the soul of the play. Niccolo delivers M's acerbic lines in a way that is funny and heartbreaking at the same time. At first M comes off as the alpha male in the relationship, but then his vulnerability shines through. You can't help but root for M.
Jenny Jamora, as W, is a worthy rival. Jenny portrays W's complexities, how she is both fragile and self-assured, gentle and tough.
Rounding off the talented cast is theater veteran Audie Gemora as F. Audie's portrayal of F-a father who unconditionally loves his son-is endearing. F arrives towards the end of the play, but he jumps in with guns blazing.
Paul Henson, ABSCBNNews.com: It's a brave, modern and witty play, and a good choice for Red Turnip, a young local company, to gamble on. The play examines the labels that we ascribe to people with respect to who they choose to love. On the surface, the conflict is about going gay or straight, choosing gay lover or female lover.
The play is performed on a big, bare circle on the floor, with the audience surrounding the actors, as it was staged by The Royal Court Theater in London. It is discomfiting to see the faces of audience members across you, a nod to the voyeuristic nature of watching the lives of the characters...
While the title of play is risqué, the delicate scenes are stylized innovatively. There are sex scenes but absolutely no nudity. This allows the viewer to focus more on the playwright's intent, and the most that you would see is two guys in a tender kiss.