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FedUni | PAMTC 2003

Semester 1 - Performance Analysis


Adrian Barila - 30114520

MTC - COCK
How does the theatrical style of this performance communicate with its
audience? What was your experience as an audience member?



Style is a term used to distinguish any activity or object that reflects a particular
practice or fits within the categorical subject of a large demographic. Style within
the theatre realm describes what an audience will be subjected to, in terms of the
conventions used to help enhance the style chosen. Stemming back from Greek
theatre, the public was limited to few conventions and style; comedy, tragedy
and satyr. From these, many other styles have emerged as subcategories
created and exploited by influential theatre practitioners such as Brecht and
Stanislavski. Cock by Mike Bartlett, performed by MTC at Fairfax Studios on
March 15, 2014, unquestionably displayed the style of realism within its acting
and elements of abstract and minimalism within its stagecraft.
The term style itself is a very broad heading that house many sub-headings of
theatrical elements that make up what an audience identifies with one style.
Cock represents a show that combines two conflicting stylistic choices in one
coherent piece to convey its ideas and messages that are supported by Bartletts
script.

In a minimalistic fashion the abstract staging is stunning; no props, no
furniture, no costume changes.
1
Attempting to stay true to the naturalistic style
of the play, but let that live within the realm of an abstract setting. Cceres
attempted to let the audience fully submerge themselves within the written
simplicity of the conversational-like text. It expresses the hardships of being in
love triangle while debating the personal struggle with sexuality. What this show
presents is two different and conflicting theatrical styles assimilating to enhance
the performance and message of the show. Originally the basic theory of
naturalistic drama developed from Ibsen: the idea of the fourth wall. The interior
set should be designed as if the room were part of a whole house
2
Cocks
staging leaves more to the imagination with its staging, but then in the acting, it
becomes a reincarnation of the realism style.

Realism within Cock lies within the actors portrayal in the character. Realism is
a style that presents real scenarios to an audience that closely mimics real life.
The way we regard a regular conversation is what we observe on the stage. What
were seeing is an insight into their life as if we were just to walk into their lives
and just stand in their living room while they co-exist with them. The notion of
realism also brings to the stage emotional issues and trauma that asks the big
questions, rather than dealing with a physical blockage that creates the issues.
The connection of characters and the way that they interact become ever so
important to the emotional state of the actors and their connection to the

1
Bache, B. Theatre review: C--k, Melbourne Theatre Company. 2014
http://www.heraldsun.com.au/
2
Styan, J. L. 1981. Modern drama in theory and practice. Cambridge: Cambridge
University Press.
audience. What another thing that realism brings is the sense that issues can be
rhetorical. The playwright often makes big questions arise, but never resolve in a
definite answer, as see in the final scenes of Cock. Tom Conroy, who played John,
had a love triangle with Angus Grant, who played M, and Sophie Ross, who
played W. The issues and themes that arise are ones of love and sexuality most
common themes in todays society that link in very closely. What the style of
realism allows is the audience to do is to relate to the characters and the
situation theyre in. Compared to Brechts method of Epic theatre, which is highly
based on making sure that the audience is aware of the fact that theyre sitting
there watching a play. Moments are often broken in case the audience members
become too involved with the emotional state of the character rather than the
message theyre trying to portray in an attempt to alienate the audience.
Stanislavski was one of the fist people in the 20
th
century to question Naturalism
that involved method acting. When one had experienced the emotion or even
that is being acted out, it can be a more believable moment on stage because the
actor can access those already lived out thoughts. Dissimilarly, the actions
mentioned in the piece are never acted out, which touts elements of non-
naturalism. Specifically a very intense scene when F is asking W to take her coat.
The line your coat, take it
3
is repeated over and over, all while theres no coat in
hand or any movements or gestures to even insinuate that theres a coat to
physically grab, again, playing on the mental integrity of performance based on
the Stanislavski method. For Cock it was very much "What would I do if I found
myself in this (the character's) circumstance?"
4
Which made the situation quite
interesting because we then as the audience are taking on the Stanislavski
method because we become so involved with the characters on stage.


Marg Horwell, set designer has made bold, but simplistic choices in set design for
the play. When the audience enters the amphitheater style space theyre exposed
to two wall that are angled in, but are to the ceiling with one gap between them
that allow then to enter and exit from, but also a stage floor that is lined with
white pillows which the characters are able to interact with. This simplistic set
never changes at all through the whole show, which lets the audience never
break a connection with the thoughts of the characters. The stage it self is round
and the audience surrounds this just like cockfights that still exist in Mexican
culture. The cockfight like style staging makes the relationships of all three
characters constantly pit against themselves within this world where they all
coexist in a one on one situation. During the show theres a pillow fight between
John and W, in which the duck down stuffed pillows explode over

3
Bartlett, M. 2009. Cock. London: Methuen Drama.
4
Carnicke, Sharon. Stanislavsky in Focus: An Acting Master for the Twenty-First
Century. Routle Theatre Classics, 2008

Horwell made sure that during the rehearsal process of the show that the
pillows were always to remain pillows, never to represent or replace physical
objects
5
which makes viewing the show quite interesting. The interpretations of
what the pillows mean can be very vast. Symbolism within their interaction of
the pillows really enforces the notions of what I have understood from the piece.
From the beginning the pillows are lining the complete floor of the stage, being
there coherent, until John picks up the first pillow when the first line is delivered.
As the conversation progresses the solid foundation of pillows is completely
broken up, the beginning of the deterioration of their relationship. This is then
built back up as a wall physically when their relationship recovers, then broken
down itself when both John and W jumped onto the wall when their relationship
began to flourish. The minimalistic set itself has nothing that represents a real
life situation which begins to conflict with the naturalistic style of the acting.
What this does in turn, allows you to completely focus your emotional attention
to the action without distraction. When it gets back to naturalism, viewing the
pillows as pillows themselves brings the idea that sexuality holds its roots within
the bedroom. The conversation could happen in a bedroom, between the sheets
that makes the environment much more personal. The term pillow talk can be
highly regarded as an influence for the show.

As an audience member whom studies acting and theatre, majority of Leticia
Cceres (director) choices were relatively obvious for me in terms of blocking,
staging and symbolic use of the pillows. What I was concerned about was if the
choices were too difficult to read for the average theatregoer. Sometimes it was
hard to read what was going on, but most importantly why it was happening. The
use of pillows was clever in the way that everyone can relate to that object and
having them almost as a safety blanket while dealing through tough situations,
like the ones on stage, but things like the wall they built and destroyed and
blocking off the only entry point to the stage for a sense of being trapped may
have just slipped through the hands of some audience members. Whats most
important about the staging of the show was the lack of. I believe that Cceres
wanted the audience to pay attention to the text so intricately, that anything else
that was gained through their on stage actions and interactions was a bonus for
us as an audience. Minor details are often picked up subconsciously, such as the
use of coloured gels to signify pink Johns interaction with a girl, and blue
Johns interaction with males. These I feel were in place for a sense of easy-to-
understand theatre where were almost being fed everything, but not quite.


5
N.P. Melbourne Theatre Company. Cock rehearsal blog, The set workshop -
Melbourne Theatre Company. http://www.mtc.com.au (Accessed April 1, 2014)
In retrospect, Leticia Cceres has done some amazing work with Mike Bartletts
play, Cock. Her interpretation was well structured enough to highlight the sound
written text, but left the play to live and thrive within this interactive, urban
bedroom wasteland. The actors managed to maintain the balance between
keeping a consistent, naturalistic conversational style piece going and looking
comfortable within the space they were in. This highlights that more
contemporary pieces of theatre can be a mixture of styles and elements to create
a great piece of theatre, demonstrated by Cock.




-Adrian Barila






















Bibliography

N.P. Melbourne Theatre Company. Cock rehearsal blog, The set workshop -
Melbourne Theatre Company. January 23, 2014.
http://www.mtc.com.au/interact/blog/2014/01/cock-rehearsal-blog-the-set-
workshop/ (Accessed April 1, 2014)

Bache, B. Theatre review: C--k, Melbourne Theatre Company. February 14, 2014
http://www.heraldsun.com.au/entertainment/arts/theatre-review-ck-
melbourne-theatre-company/story-fni0fcgk-1226827116955 (Accessed April 4,
2014)

Bartlett, M. Cock. London: Methuen Drama. 2009.

Carnicke, Sharon. Stanislavsky in Focus: An Acting Master for the Twenty-First
Century. Routle Theatre Classics, 2008. P. 224

Styan, J. L.. Modern drama in theory and practice. Cambridge: Cambridge
University Press. 1981. P. 36