Review: Taron Egerton Miscast In Mike Bartlett's Study In Sexual Identity

Cock, Ambassadors Theatre ★★★☆☆

Franco Milazzo
By Franco Milazzo Last edited 9 months ago
Review: Taron Egerton Miscast In Mike Bartlett's Study In Sexual Identity Cock, Ambassadors Theatre 3
Jade Anouka (W) and Jonathan Bailey (John) in Cock. © Brinkhoff/Moegenburg

John lives with his boyfriend. John has been with him for seven years. John has also recently started sleeping with a woman. So what does John's partner do to resolve matters? He holds a dinner party for all three, plus his father. How very British.

Mike Bartlett's Cock first appeared in 2009 after which he went on to write acclaimed dramas Charles III for the stage and Doctor Foster for TV. While the latter was also an intense study in infidelity, this earlier work focusses more on sexual identity, the perishing effects of long-term relationships and how conscious inaction can be just as damaging as thoughtless actions.

The salacious title, the rare appearance of Taron Egerton on a stage and his faint on the first night have all ensured that this play will sell out. Egerton has proven himself to be a fine film actor in roles as diverse as Elton John and Eddie The Eagle but here he is horribly miscast as M, the partner of the cheating John (played by the under-par Jonathan Bailey, seen recently in Bridgerton).

Egerton has proven himself to be a fine film actor but here he is horribly miscast. © Brinkhoff/Moegenburg

Cock's saving graces come in the form of the woman W (Jade Anouka) and M's father F (Phil Daniels). In the final scenes, both are superb — adding spice and energy, and lifting proceedings to a new level. It is only then that the comedy lands, the barbs bite and we finally see John, W and M confront the issue at the core of their predicament: W and M want more from John than he can give and John doesn't know what he wants.

While the denouement is a hammer to the heart, the early scenes are truly dull to watch. Marianne Elliot's directing does little to imbue the gay couple with much in the way of chemistry, and scene transitions are done through done-to-death bullet-time-like movements. Merle Hansen's design is the very definition of minimal (one curved wall, one door, two benches) and Bartlett's script is no more enthralling than any lovers' tiff you might overhear late night on the 159.

Phil Daniels (left) is superb in the final scenes. © Brinkhoff/Moegenburg

Elliot's directing — especially during the sex scene between John and W — has some interesting things to say about physicality but, other than that, everything from the character names to the set design to the initial cliché-ridden arguments screams of theatrical pretension.

At 105 minutes with no interval, this Cock may seem long to some but, once it gets going, it is all over too soon.

Cock, Ambassadors Theatre, tickets from £20, until 4 June. Tickets from £20

Also: Bartlett returns next month to the Old Vic with The 47th, a play about the upcoming US presidential election.

Last Updated 16 March 2022