Abbey Theatre’s ‘wickedly funny’ play Cock squares up to issues of sexual orientation

Cock can be seen at the Abbey Theatre Studio in St Albans.

Cock can be seen at the Abbey Theatre Studio in St Albans from July 1. - Credit: Anne Frizell

Sexuality – specifically sexual orientation – is always a hot topic, and it’s handled with wit and vivacity by the Abbey Theatre in their upcoming play, Cock.

The play is by Mike Bartlett, the creative genius behind BBC hits Doctor Foster and Life.

It tells the story of John, a gay man who causes consternation – not least with his boyfriend – when he falls in love with a woman he met on his commute to work.

Upcoming show Cock opens at the Abbey Theatre in July.

Upcoming show Cock opens at the Abbey Theatre in July. - Credit: Anne Frizell

As a piece of drama it’s incredibly pared-down, fast-moving and entertaining, with no set, no props and no music. The resulting bare conflict is reminiscent of a cockfight – one of the reasons behind the play’s striking name.

The production is directed by Company of Ten luminary Tim Hoyle.

Cock by Mike Bartlett can be seen at the Abbey Theatre in St Albans.

Cock by Mike Bartlett can be seen at the Abbey Theatre in St Albans. - Credit: Anne Frizell

"It’s easy to empathise with the character of John," says Tim. "Suddenly a big decision is being forced upon him, and we share his discomfort as the situation spirals.

"John’s big problem is that everyone wants to define what he is – in other words, give him a label that makes sense to them.

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"They don’t want to understand who he is – a complex individual who should be free to fall in love with whoever he likes."

The small cast features three actors new to the Abbey Theatre.

Play Cock can be seen at the Abbey Theatre Studio in St Albans.

Play Cock can be seen at the Abbey Theatre Studio in St Albans. - Credit: Anne Frizell

The role of John is taken by Jake Francis.

"The simplicity of this play makes it really accessible," says Jake. "And I’m really enjoying being a part of the Abbey Theatre. There’s so much passion here."

A London production of Cock, starring Taron Egerton (Rocketman) and Jonathan Bailey (Bridgerton), was widely criticised for charging up to £400 per ticket.

The Abbey Theatre, however, has modestly stuck to its usual pricing of £13, and £12 for concessions, making this production better value than the West End alternative.

A word of warning: while the play was justifiably described by the Financial Times as "wickedly funny and strangely touching", it does contain very strong language and adult content.

Performances take place in the Abbey Theatre Studio from Friday, July 1 to Saturday, July 9 at 8pm, with a matinee on Sunday, July 3 at 2.30pm.

The Thursday evening performance is socially distanced.

To book tickets, go to www.abbeytheatre.org.uk or call the box office on 01727 857861.