Cock fight ends Company of Ten's first-rate season at the Abbey Theatre

Cock at the Abbey Theatre in St Albans

Cock at the Abbey Theatre in St Albans - Credit: Anne Frizell

Madeleine Burton reviews Company of Ten's production of Cock at the Abbey Theatre Studio in St Albans.

Cock at the Abbey Theatre in St Albans

Cock at the Abbey Theatre in St Albans - Credit: Anne Frizell

A cock fight with no clear winner rounds off a first-rate season for the Company of Ten.

Cock by Mike Bartlett is being performed on the sparsest set imaginable in the Abbey Theatre Studio.

And even though it was written in 2009, this is a bold choice of plays for an amateur dramatic company, not just because of its language and subject matter but also the demands it places on its performers.

Cock at the Abbey Theatre in St Albans

Cock at the Abbey Theatre in St Albans - Credit: Anne Frizell

When Cock was performed in the West End earlier this year, it garnered mixed reviews despite its starry cast.

But no-one watching the Company of Ten production will be left in any doubt that they are seeing local theatre at its best.

Director Tim Hoyle chooses to set the audience around a ring on the floor as if they were watching a cock fight.

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And this tale of a gay man falling for a heterosexual woman and being forced to choose between her and his male lover completely draws you in.

Cock at the Abbey Theatre in St Albans

Cock at the Abbey Theatre in St Albans - Credit: Anne Frizell

It is far more than just physical sex – it is all about the sexual identity of the main protagonist, John, the only character who has a name.

Three new members of the Company of Ten take the main roles and all are outstandingly good.

They are clearly as bowled over by the play as the director.

Cock at the Abbey Theatre in St Albans

Cock at the Abbey Theatre in St Albans - Credit: Anne Frizell

Jake Francis as John absorbs the dilemma of his character to the extent that the audience cannot help but feel his pain and shame.

It is a stunning performance and what makes this production even better is that it is matched by Guy Conroy-Smith as his lover M and Tanishia Gearing as the aptly named F.

Cock at the Abbey Theatre in St Albans

Cock at the Abbey Theatre in St Albans - Credit: Anne Frizell

The change in M from being the dominant person in the relationship to facing being cast aside for a woman is more than believable.

And the shock and pain suffered by W is acted so well that her devastation is totally convincing.

Cock at the Abbey Theatre in St Albans

Cock at the Abbey Theatre in St Albans - Credit: Anne Frizell

Veteran Company of Ten performer David Bailey plays F, M’s father, and gives his best shot to a role which is really rather incidental.

Cock is perfectly suited to theatre in the round and demonstrates how lucky audiences are that the Company of Ten has two such contrasting stages.

Cock runs until Saturday, July 9, and tickets are available from www.abbeytheatre.org.uk or call the box office on 01727 857861.