In the Red Corner
Red Turnip Theater just wrapped up the first week of their sophomore production, Cock. The tight cast of theater heavyweights proved that you don’t need extensive sets and lavish musical performances to entertain an audience.
Topper Fabregas played the lead, John, a young man torn between his long-time gay lover, M, played by Niccolo Manahan, and a new woman, W, played by Jenny Jamora. As John figures out who he really is, M isn’t giving up without a fight. The three find themselves having dinner in M’s house “to sort things out,” as the fourth character comes in to further complicate the situation—M’s manipulative father, F, played by Audie Gemora. Thespian Rem Zamora made a superb directorial debut with this British script that indicated no specific blocking and setups, leaving everything in the director’s hands.
Whitespace Makati’s art studio was transformed into a little cockfight arena for this production. A red dot represented the limited diameter of the setup surrounded by wooden fences and the audience seats. The intimate setting allowed us, the audience, to listen in as if we were eavesdropping on our own neighbors’ juicy love spat. Admit it; you like to secretly listen when two or more people converse about the scandalous details of their lives at restaurants, coffee shops, parties, or at least in talk shows.
Although set in London, the sharp and rapid banters (with no forced British accents from the actors, thank goodness!) will remind you of people you know in real life—a clingy ex, an overpowering former lover, an overbearing parent, or maybe even yourself during your soul-searching years. The cast’s ability to deliver the squabbles with such fluidity is what you’re paying for.
The scenes go from London’s train stations to M’s kitchen and W’s bedroom, where the most clever intercourse scene I have ever watched was staged. Disclaimer: No actual nudity occurred, but the cast’s superb line delivery and acting made the audience gasp in delight one minute, and then fold into awkwardness the next. I could find myself visualizing every imaginary prop of the set, from M’s wine glasses to the kitschy teddy bear that John gives to M as an effort to say sorry for sleeping with another woman.
It’s interesting to note that except for John, none of the characters were given names or were directly addressed in the entire R-18 play. What made John so special that only he deserved a first name in Mike Bartlett’s story? It took me a few scenes into the play to peel into the layers of each character—that W is more than just a clingy woman from a failed marriage, that M’s controlling persona is what makes him so funny, and that M’s father may have unresolved identity issues of his own. I also found myself trying hard to figure out why all the characters seem so engrossed with John, played effortlessly by the charming Fabregas.
Like a long sexual encounter, the 90-minute show with no intermission had its ups and downs, moments of erectile dysfunction, lots of foreplay that led to multiple climaxes, and an ending that will you leave you rooting for one or two of the cast members.
The beauty of this production isn’t that it will make you bet on a character the way gamblers place bets on fighting cocks in an actual derby, but that your interpretation and choice of winner will actually tell you a lot about yourself.
Cock will run on the following dates: March 7, 14, 21, 28 and April 4 (Fridays at 9 p.m.; March 8, 15, 29, and April 5 (Saturdays at 8 p.m.), and March 9, 16, 23, and April 6 (Sundays at 4 p.m.) at Whitespace, 2314 Chino Roces Avenue, Makati City, Philippines. Special closing gala is on April 6 at 8 p.m.
Photos courtesy of Red Turnip Theater
March 3, 2014