(not a) THEATRE REVIEW: Cock starring Jonathan Bailey, Taron Egerton, Jade Anouka & Phil Daniels

By Neil Durham

WHERE?: Ambassadors Theatre, London

WHEN?: Saturday 5 March, booking to 4 June 2022 RUNTIME: Usually 105 minutes (no interval)

We’re at the 1st preview of this Mike Bartlett revival and 90 minutes in Egerton faints onstage, a doctor is called from the audience and the curtain goes down for 40 minutes.

  • Read on for reasons including how Egerton is due back onstage to perform this on Monday 7 March

Many people think reviews of theatre 1st nights are unfair and yet they are amongst the most popular reads on this site.

We often go to 1st previews and generally only review them if we think what we would write would be supportive to the show.

4 years ago we were at a preview of Mamet’s Glengarry Glen Ross when actor Robert Glenister collapsed on stage 10 minutes in and the production did not resume. Thankfully Glenister was OK although did suffer a different recurrence.

We’re not reviewing this 1st preview although we think it important to give some audience interpretation of what happened and also some positive thoughts about what we saw.

Egerton took to Instagram yesterday to explain what happened and to express his intention to return to the show tonight (Monday 7 March) to complete it on what would have been his West End debut.

We were in row 8 on Saturday night as the curtain came down and 1 of the audience members we sat next to immediately started crying because it was unclear what was going on. A front of house member of staff came over and consoled her saying Egerton may have collapsed because of the heat onstage.

To emphasise the cockfight nature of the play, the action takes place in a semi circle with the back of the stage surrounded by mirrors to intensify the effect.

Bartlett writes in the programme how it was conceived in Mexico City: ‘I had become interested in blood sports in Mexico. Bull fighting I went to see in person. Cock fighting was happening but was officially illegal, so I could only watch it in clips online.

‘As I watched, both intrigued and horrified, I began to think what a play would be that took this as its form – a group of people gathered, without much decoration or ceremony, to witness creatures attacking each other.

‘At the same time I had a number of straight friends telling me about sexual or romantic experiences they’d had with people of the same sex. Similarly gay friends who’d had experiences with the opposite sex. It felt that the categories of gay, straight and bi, which at the time were still the way the vast majority of people identified, were proving inadequate.’

In the intervening 13 years things have moved on, with the notion of fluid sexuality becoming more acceptable.

Back to the stage and after 40 minutes of curtain down the play resumed for its final 15 minutes with understudy Joel Harper-Jackson performing Egerton’s role as M.

Director Marianne Elliott (Company, Gielgud Theatre) took to the stage to announce the switch and to share that Egerton was ‘absolutely fine’.

We won’t comment on Egerton’s pre-faint efforts but will say that Jonathan Bailey (Company, Gielgud Theatre) as protagonist John – who is in a relationship with M and cheats on him with Jade Anouka’s magnetic W (Shakespeare Trilogy, Donmar at King’s Cross) – gives an outstanding performance as a man unsure who he wants to be with yet resolute in how worthy of much attention he is.

Later Phil Daniels takes to the stage as M’s father F for a hugely difficult dinner/confrontation scene as the competing lovers fight for the affections of John.

Theatre is a very different discipline to film acting and sometimes its intensity and the physical toll it can take are underestimated.

Theatre is important but nothing should outrank health and wellbeing – and that’s why we wish Egerton and all involved with Cock the best for this run – with an emphasis on the 2nd preview tonight (Monday 7 March 2022) going exactly as planned.

  • Picture courtesy Cock – the play via Facebook Tickets
  • Have you heard any of these songs or seen any of these shows? Let us know what you thought in the comments below
  • Enjoyed this (not a ) review? Follow monstagigz on Twitter @NeilDurham, email neildurham3@gmail.com and check us out on Instagram and Facebook

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