Rope (Almeida 23/12/09) 28 December 2009

I did what you probably shouldn't do when seeing a play that has a film version - I watched the film first. Well, sort of. I started watching it then fell asleep. That's not to say that the film was boring but it didn't prove to be as exciting as I expected it to be. The film version of Rope of course is directed by Alfred Hitchcock and adapted for the screen from Patrick Hamilton's play by actor Hume Cronyn which in turn is inspired by true events. Luckily, by falling asleep I didn't see the ending which is important in this story as the audience already knows who, what, when, where and basically why, from the first scene. What is not known is - will they get away with it?

For the first time in Almeida history, the seating arrangement is in the round. I was seated in the first row of the circle, an excellent seat. What they have done is pull the stage forward into what is usually the first few rows. The back wall of the previous stage area is now lined with two rows of seats on tow levels, matching the existing circle and stalls. It's all seamless. If you hadn't been to the Almeida before you would never realy guess that it was a new configuration.

As the play opens, tow of the main characters Wyndham Brandon and Charles Granillo have just strangled a university friend to death with a rope and are stuffing him in chest in the front sitting room. The first ten or so minutes of Rope are played in almost complete darkness as the two characters discuss what has just happened and what will happen. What will happen is a party. They have invited friends of the deceased as well as his father who they assume will come with the aunt. There is a perverse thrill about having a party in such close vicinity of the dead body, and Wyndham (Blake Ritson - Arcadia for the National Theatre and the film RocknRolla) is relishing it. His partner in crime Granillo (Alex Waldmann - Laertes in Jude Law's West End Hamlet) is much less confident, in fact he is in full on panic mode.

When they finally feel safe to turn on lights the play proper begins. Instead of serving the food and drinks in the dining room they have opted to take their plan further by serving from the chest with the body in the front room. Their servant (this is late 20's, early 30's upper class London) Sabot arrives first to set the table. It's really a thankless part, with the character's only purpose being to help arouse suspicion and then exit. As played by Philip Arditti (England People Very Nice - National Theatre, House of Saddam for HBO) I think he is supposed to be North African or French. This is the one severly underwritten part in the play.

After Sabot, the others arrive one by one: Another university friend Kenneth Raglan (Henry Lloyd-Hughes - almost unrecogniseable from his stint as the bully on The Inbetweeners), another friend, socialite Leila Arden (a very well played and very funny Phoebe Waller-Bridge - 2nd May 1997 at the Bush, co-Artistic Director of DryWrite), followed by the father of the corpse Sir Johnstone Kentley (Michael Elwyn - numerous productions at the Royal Exchange Manchester and Open Air Theatre Regents Park as well as Tv's The Tudors) along with his sister Mrs Debenham who struggles to speak more than three words at a time (Emma Dewhurst - Medea, Jane Eyre both West End, The Invention of Love and Making History - both National Theatre). The general interactions between these guests are entertaining to listen to and watch. As directed by Roger Michell (Female of the Species - West End; Landscape with Weapon, Blue/Orange - both National Theatre; films include - The Mother, Enduring Love and Notting Hill) the characters move effortlessly around the circular set allowing each to emerge and establish themselves without isolating them from the central event.

The balance changes with the entrance of Rupert Cadell, another friend - an ex-serviceman from the first world war, who walks with a cane as a result of a war wound. As played by Bertie Carvel (The Pride at the Royal Court; Parade at the Donmar; The Man of Mode, Galileo and Coram Boy - all National Theatre) Rupert is a a visual and aural curiosity. HIs speech is clipped, with odd exagerations on various phrases and words, he walks with a limp and has a very camp, fey air about him. However, it's the hair - the hair is a marvel all it's own. Where did that come from? All I can say it's an early 1929 quif and it works. All in all, Bertie Carvell gives one of the finest performances of the year. He has an uncanny ability to make Rupert extremely funny as well as endearing although he can be bitchy and arrogant. No matter how funny he is, Carvell never allows the character to turn into farce, knowing when to pull back and allow the other characters to have their turn, he never overpowers the scenes. What is also very admirable is that no matter what volume he pitches the performance, Carvel always follows through with the many ticks of the character.

This can also be said of the entire production. There are many times where it becomes extremely funny, to the point where I had to wonder if it was turning out to be a great comedy and the thriler aspects were going to be secondary. This never happened, the production knew when to reign it in - the comedy came naturally from the characterisations so it was only funny when it should be. And the ending. I really loved the lead up to the final events. There are some really great and touching speeches, and some interesting theories to chew on without ever becoming pretentious and overbearing.

Compare and contrast time. This really has no bearing on my enjoyment of the production but I think these are interesting points to bring up. I'll start with the Hitchcock film as that was my point of entry.
Hitchcocks Rope takes place in the late 1950s in Manhattan. The number of characters are about the same but many have different relationships with each other and the servant has a much bigger part and is female. Keeping this in mind, imagine my surprise when in the opening moments of the play I am hearing RP.

Later that evening, when I returned home, I decided to look further into the Rope story. Lets start with the real story. The real killing took place in Chicago in 1924 by Leopold and Loeb. I 'm not sure why the play then took place in the UK other than the playwright may have felt more comfortable with all things English and was writing for that audience (his other famous plays include Gaslight - recently revived at the Old Vic, and Hangover Square). The other interesting fact is the sexuality of the two main characters.

Leopold and Loeb were gay. It was never called that back in the day of their trial, but they admitted to sexual relations. I find this information of interest because it explains a few things about the film. Of course, the 'love that dare not speak its name' was a no go area in the late 1950s, especially if James Stewart is one of your stars, but if you watch the film closely one does wonder why the two killers are standing so close together. It sounds odd but have a watch and you'll see what I mean. I think Hitchcock was inferring intimacy without making it an issue. Again, this was an issue that you wouldn't find in a 1929 play, so the closest you get in the play text (much like the film) is that the two characters are travelling out of town together for the winter. Flash forward to the West End revival of Rope in the 90's which famously opened with full frontal male nudity, intimating that the killing was part of a honey trapvmaking no bones about the characters sexuality.

In this current revival, it sticks to the text as is. I've never read it so I can't be sure how camp Rupert was written, but as with the film, the sexuality is inferred but off handed comments and physicality but never overtly stated. Ultimately, does their sexuality make a difference to the play? No, not one bit. It's just an interesting sidenote to an interesting and engrossing play which you should see (if you can).

Cock - Final Performance (Royal Court 19/12/09)

With some forethought I bought a scond ticket for the final performance of Cock and I'm glad I did. Early on, I could tell from the cast and creative team that it would be a memorable production, especially with Andrew Scott playing one of the roles. So seeing it again be worth my time as well as a pre Christmas treat.

First off it was interesting to see changes from a front of house perspective. Obviously, as the show was popular (sold out before the run was even half finished) and word got around about the unusual seating, more people were queuing before the doors opened. This caused a little confusion for the attendees of the Downstairs performance of The Priory as the end of the queue extended into their balcony level's bar.

Early queues that snake down stairs and around corners do give an added level of excitement and anticipation to the evening, much like what it was for films, back in the day. Interesting enough, Cock director James MacDonald seemed very taken aback by the queue when he arrived for this final performance, something I thought odd. He must have been aware that it had been sold out. Maybe it was the fact that the audiences cared enough to queue early that surprised him.

There must have been some issues with getting people into the theatre and seated on time as tickets were now being torn while we were queuing. We were let in close to start time and could only go in one direction (which I discovered when I decided to go the oposite way and was stopped). Also, gone was smell of freshly cut wood. Once in the arena we were greeted, if you could call it that, by a female usher who seemed to be somewhere around nineteen years old, firmly barking orders as people. I was very intent on finding a seat which would give me a diferent perspective and when I located it I took aim.

In order not to disturb those already seated I stepped over the fixed cushions on the first level to take my solitary place to the far side next to the railing on the second level. At this point , the 'lovely' usher barked "Do not step on the cushions. Please use the centre stairs" which seemed an odd thing to request after the fact. I reassured her that I did not step on a cushion, which she replied "then use the centre stairs" which again, was strange seeng that I was already seated. I was surprised at the intensity of 'crowd control'. Crowd being a maximum of around 80 people which is taking into consideration that not everyone showed - there were empty places. I mentioned in my first post about Cock about how lovely the Royal Court staff were. I take it back.

I mention all this because I found it interesting that this little play, in the tiny Royal Court Theatre Upstairs seemed to almost have the feeling of a stadium gig for its final performance. That's saying alot about how audiences have reacted to Cock but also put pressure on the performers to deliver. I was afraid that as they had settled into their roles and as it was a final performance that the subtle aspects would be driven out and replaced by overt comedy but my fears were unfounded.

What was most magical about this performance to me was that all performances had grown in relation to each other. What I found awkward (for the wrong reasons) in the earlier performance - Paul Jesson's 'F' - now works well. His perfomance was no longer a charicature of an 'older generation' but a full fledged individual. This made his sections believeable and it didn't come across as being presented with 'theme' wrapped up in a bow and neatly presented to the audeince. It was integrated.

Of the other three actors, the one whose performance changed the most was Ben Whishaw's. Thinking about it, he may have had the most difficult role. Although he is the centre of the action and is in all scenes, his character is often at the receiving end, with the other characters driving the action forward. This can be difficult because you are always reacting to what is being thrown at you and it could leave you in the dust. Ben's performance found more of the humour and a little more strength than he had in the earlier performance.

All this aside, it was still Katherine Parkinson and Andrew Scott who shined - both finding every conceivable character nuance and flinging it into the arena without ever losing sight of the story. Both, as usual, were excellent but Andrew Scott was in top form. His line readings and takes on situations were beyond brilliant. I was sitting directly opposite the director and was watching his his reactions. Judging by what made him sit up and take notice, smile and laugh this late in the day having seen it umpteen times, I would say that Andrew Scott won. I hate bang on about this (well, I just hope you don't get too bored) but he really can push the boat out - not too far as to get lost over the horizon. He was on top form but never upstaged his fellow performers or lose sight of the characters intentions.

I'm glad a went a second time. The whole experience was alot edgier. Like a fine wine, it's aged well with time. I wondered if this was their peak. Would a longer run have turned it into a huge laugh fest in an attempt to keep it fresh and the actors from getting bored? Like with all theatre, we will never know. It's had it's moment in time and any additional productions would have their own slant, no matter who's in it or directed it. I'm glad I saw this one.

Cat on a Hot Tin Roof (Novello Theatre 8/12/09) 9 December 2009

As has already been stated on here, I'm a huge Tennessee Williams fan. Seeing Cat on a Hot Tin Roof with such theatre heavyweights was, I thought, going to be a revelation but sadly, I was disappointed. Not in the play but in some of the performances.

In the story Brick, the heavy drinker around whom the story revolves, tells Big Daddy that he is waiting for the 'click' - a moment when the drink kicks in. That's how I felt when watching this production, waiting for the 'click'. Not the drink but that essence that sweeps you into the story and lives of the characters - the moment you forget you're in a theatre. Unfortunately the 'click' never really came. It was close a few times, but like in the story - it was continuously being thwarted.

On the surface it's difficult to not get involved to an extent as it's such a great play it would have to be performed by complete incompetents to be completely ruined. Tennessee Williams has written such rich dialogue and an intriguing story that no matter how it's performed there is always a level of enjoyment. Not too long ago I listened to a BBC radio version of the play and wasn't entirely satisfied because although the language was great I felt I was missing important visual interaction between the characters so it never really came as alive as I felt it should. This new West End production is the first time I have seen it on stage and it made me understand for the first time, what the characters intentions were. And, it also pointed out to me where the production failed.

Here's the story - Brick, a former college star athlete and later successful sports announcer, has fallen upon hard times after 'taking to the drink'. Mourning the death of his friend and fellow athlete Skipper, he breaks his leg while attempting to jump hurdles drunk and is somehwat temporarily immobilised with his leg in a cast. He is married to Maggie but there isn't any love or affection (or childrent) in the marriage. As the story begins we discover that Brick's father, the immensly wealthy Big Daddy, may or may not be dying and that issue of who would inherit the fortune is at the forefront of many family members minds. The most active in the quest for the monney is Brick's brother Gooper and his annoying wife Mae who have had many children to try and steer the vote in their favour. Of course that's the storyline but the real story is the question of Brick's relationship with Skipper - whether they were more than 'friends' - and how this unrecognised issue affects both Brick and those around him.

Cat on a Hot Tin Roof has three main elements to the story. The first is Brick's relationship with his wife Maggie (the Cat of the title, also self proclaimed), the second is Brick's relationship with his father Big Daddy and the third is the story of the inheritance. For me the two most crucial elements are the opening almost monologue by Maggie and the later almost monologue of Big Daddy's. In each section Brick is trying to get the 'click' yet it's being thwarted by having these other two talk to and at him, incessantly. On one level it would seem that the two big performances get it right, they do but only on one level. Sanaa Lathan as Maggie (Tv''s Nip/Tuck and Tony nomination for her role as Beneatha Unger in A Raisin in the Sun) gets across the incessant chatter and you can feel the opressive nature of having someone talk at you but she doesn't get across the other elements. Maggie is a sex kitten and she is also a manipulator. Her entire opening scene is her attempt to get a rise out of Brick - emotionally, intellectually and sexually. She challenges him, not directly, but by presenting ideas and situations that she hopes he will either refute or accept. Ms Lathan never got the manipulation part. We got the chatter but not the intention.

Unfortuantely (again) I got the same from James Earl Jones as Big Daddy. In this play it's about what's unsaid. In the big scene between Big Daddy and Brick (which can be seen as a companion piece to the first with Maggie and Brick) Big Daddy goes on and on about himself and his less than satisfactory realtionship with Big Mama (and excellent Phylica Rashad who created a character very much unlike herself and threw herself into it). Brick often mentions that this incessant talk is something Big Daddy always does and that it never seems to go anywhere and that's how it came across to me. What was forgotten is for the scene to be important it has to be viewed as ' so why is this time different?'. What should have made it different is that Big Daddy pretty much knows about Brick and Skipper but is unable to come right out and say it. So he resorts to the same tactics as Maggie, trying to manipulate Brick through the telling of stories and the asking of seemingly unrelated questions. Mr Jones delivery baffled me as well, I found it hard to listen to and never got the intention. It was just rambling.

Now on to Brick. As written, Brick (played in this production by Adrian Lester (Tv's Hustle, the film Primary Colors and an Olivier award for his lead in the Sondheim musical Company) is dodging the truth by drinking. It's all made more difficult by having to dodge the bullets being fired at him by his family. It's a role that heavily relies on the assault. You have to really be assaulted to really have to dodge the bullets. As the assaults were minor, his retreat was minor and all he was left with was his back story and the drink. When he lashed out in reaction it came across as ' that was a bit over the top wasn't it?'. Not Adrian Lester's fault.

So, those are the basics. How was everyone else? Standouts for me were Peter De Jersey (Tv's Holby City and a recent stint at the RSC) as Gooper the brother and Nina Sosanya (loads of theatre, Tv's Teachers and the film Love, Actually) as Mae really hit the mark. Both balanced the humour and deperation of going full throttle for the inheritance and made their attacks on other family members understandable. Late in the play Gooper has a last desperate plea for why he should be entilted and Mr De Jersey nails it.

The scenic design by Morgan Large (Tick, Tick... Boom!, The Last Five Years, Fame and Footloose all West End) was fine and the direction is by Debbie Allen (Tv's Fame and on stage as the last Bob Fosse Charity in Sweet Charity). Other than it being serviceable, I have to wonder how many of the choices to not go after the visceral, manipulative elements were down to direction and not the choice of the actors. I have the feeling that there was an attempt to make the characters more likeable. That was a big mistake. Even in the darkest places you can find some light and to not trust Tennesee Williams Pulitzer winning masterpiece is a somewhat foolish choice. All the elements are there, you just have to mine a bit deeper to find the gold.

RED - 2nd preview (Donmar 4/12/09) 5 December 2009

Under normal circumstances I wouldn't have attended a second preview but this was the result of booking as a Donmar Friend for the first time and getting to grips with the booking form. Live and learn. However, it was the second preview and I kept that in mind.

This is the second play in a row that has greeted the audience with a scent (see Cock at the Royal Court for the other). Whether intentional or not, the space smells of artists paint which does set the scene nicely. The Donmar stage has been turned into a painters studio, the walls have been stripped bare with the only built set piece are doors leading out to one side. Hanging on a suspended wall, centre towards the back and dominating the stage is a Rothko painting - see above image for an idea of his work - which they change numeous times throught the production. Here lies problem number one, abstract expressionism can be difficult to get into, understand or appreciate. Either you do or you don't. As with many art forms, having information about them or doing some sofa research could help appreciate it, however if you come to Red with no prior knowledge it could be heavy going. Honestly, I think this is a major problem with this play but more on that after a quick rundown on the story.

It starts in Rothko's studio, 1958, as a young man - Ken (Eddie Redmayne - Now or Later at the Royal Court, films The Other Boleyn Girl and Savage Grace) meets Mark Rothko (Alfred Molina -films Frida, Prick Up Your Ears, Chocolat) for the first time as his assistant. The action takes place over a two year period as Rothko works on a mural for the restaurant in New York's ritzy Seagrams building. Rothko proves to be difficult in his relationship with his assistant as well as being overprotective about his work and how it's presented. That's about all there is to the actual story. The remainder of the play is filled with discussions about how Rothko feels about art, how he challenges his assistant and how he felt about his contemporaries and the art world in general.

I had heard on the by and by that Rothko was known for being very difficult. That's clear after the first scene. Unfortunately 100 minutes of a man being difficult is in fact difficult to listen to. Even more difficult is the language used and subject matter. All very high brow. I could have gone along if there was an ultimate purpose but it just waffled on and on, often repeating the same themes and points. Not much is revealed about either character with the exception of a brief 'tender' moment about two thirds of the way through and the very end which left me wondering even more - what's the point?

Keeping in mind it was an early performance, I couldn't help but wonder if it was in fact a 45 minute play stretched out to make a full evening. Each scene change is marked by two occurances - first, the painting on the suspended wall is changed by Rothko and Ken (this involves loosening ropes, lowering one painting, taking it off of hooks, walking it to the back wall, putting it down, taking a new one, walking it back, putting it on the hooks, putting it on the hooks and fixing the ropes again) and second, one of the two characters exits to change their clothes. There was one exception to this. One of the best visual scenes occurs as the two prime a canvas with red paint. It's a furious and visceral encounter of man, canvas and red paint - all done to an aria - that leaves them both covered in red. At this point Rothko goes offstage to clean up and Ken does his cleaning up onstage. So basically we sat there and watched Ken take off his shirt, wipe himself down, clean up and put on a new shirt. If they took out all the on stage, off stage, change the picture, stretch a canvas and mix some paint actions, it wouldn't have been nearly as long.

Going back to the 'prior knowledge' issue, unfortunately programmes were not available due to an error that was only discovered after they had been printed, but one can assume that there would have be some background information on Rothko, the times and the art world he was a part of. That would be useful to have but my feelings are that you shouldn't need that information to understand or fully engage with the play. There is so much information bandied around that assumes prior knowledge and I'm pretty sure those without it would not get the full effect. It's all about the art. Matisse's work is referred to, Pollock plays a major part (it seems there was some sort of rivalry), Picasso and the cubists and then Warhol and Lichtenstein. If you don't know these artists works then I wonder what the play would say to you I get the impression that there is an attempt to get to the bottom of Rothko's personality and desires but not much is revealed. Maybe it was intentional that what is revealed is almost in an abstract expressionist manner?

My last big gripe with the production is the use of the paintings. I think it would have been much more powerful to not have the paintings on stage, to let our imaginations set free by the characters descriptions. Seeing the paintings makes the production so specific that it's hard to grasp any universal meaning, message or theme. What was also odd was that the mural being painted for the restaurant, the painting that formed the thrust of the story, was never seen. What the audience gets (continuously) are two actors looking at the bottom of the dress circle as if they are looking at the mural.

Again, this was the second preview. The performances were at the place you would expect them to be on a second preview, and one would assume that with their talents they will develop as the run continues. My issue is with the play (by John Logan - known for his screenplays for Sweeney Todd, The Aviator and Gladiator as co-writer. It doesn't say much and the little of what it says is said with self- indulgence. It's the sort of play that many will probably see and come out raving about how fantastic it is - primarily because the language is literary and academic which many equate with being good theatre. It reminds me of those people who think an actors performance is fantastic primarily because they can memorise a five page monologue and rattle it off without error. For me it's not enough.

What I find suprising is that Red is directed by Michael Grandage who is one of the most respected and sucessful directors today. Again, early days, I'm not sure if he will be making any major adjustments, we'll have to wait and see how it develops. I could forgive the play for it's use of over intellectual language and thought but I spent 100 minutes in the company of two people who over think everything only to be told at the end that it's a bad thing. Oh well. Maybe I can get those 100 minutes back somehow.

Cock (Royal Court 1/12/09) 1 December 2009

Almost flawless. That's my feeling. There will always be preferences in performance, style, dialogue etc... but when you put all of that aside and just look at the mechanics and effect of Cock then almost flawless is the only thing that comes to mind. Almost - flawless. There's a little caveat which I will get to in a moment.

I'm going to start with the space itself. For any who have every been to the the Theatre Upstairs at the Royal Court, you will know it's a small space. What is surprising is that it's actually more flexible than one would think. Upon arrival for this show what I was hit with first was a strange yellowy light and the smell of freshly cut timber. There's a choice to walk right or left around a timber plywood wall and enter the playing space through a narrow walkway. A round wooden playing space, an arena with three seating levels has been constructed. It's a small space with the main playing area painted a billiard table green and above it what could only be described as a circular plywood lampshade, but as large as the central playing area. The only lighting (other than the yellowy light on the audience) is flourescent tube lighting from inside the giant shade. Because of the set up you were not only in close proximity to the person beside you but in full view of everyone else in the space.

The sparsness of the space designed by Miriam Beuther (Judgement Day, When the Rain Stops Falling at the Almeida, The Good Soul of Szechuan at The Young Vic, Six Characters in Search of an Author in the West End) extended to the production. Here's playwright Mike Bartlett's description from the play text:

The audience is raked down towards the actors.
There is no scenery, no props, no furniture, and no mime.
Instead the focus is entirely on the drama of the scene.

This sounds like it could make for a pretty dodgy evening of ACTING but it worked, beautifully.

Here's the basic setup. Through an opening arguement between a gay couple (John and his boyfriend only known as 'M; in the script) we discover that John is having an affair with a woman. We also see the other side of the story through John and the woman - only known as 'W' in the script. The thrust of the story is John trying to understand these conflicting desires and attempting to make a choice.

Many of the individual scenes skip the interactions that are not relevant with delineations between scenes audibly marked with a buzzer/bell. It's all very subtle but again, very effective as it's clear when the scene has changed. There are two very intimate scenes, both dealing with nudity and sexual exploration where clothes are never shed and the reactions never exploited but are in keeping with the intimatacy of the moment. It's all wonderfully directed by James MacDonald (Judgement Day at the Almeida at the Royal Court) in a manner that is at once very straightforward and choreographed. Where each individual is placed in the space and how they move in relation to each other speaks volumes, about as much as the dialogue itself.

I love coming across a play that has dialogue that is funny, touching and insightful. Playwright Mike Bartlett has an amazing ear for how people speak. At one moment you're laughing hysterically with recognition, and the next it feels as if you're privy to a very private moment, hearing things that aren't meant to be heard outside of private conversation. This effect is not only down to the writing but the actors as well. Each delivers such a connected performance, such an understanding of what they are saying that the marriage between script and performance is explosive. There is nothing showy in the performances, each serving the situation and defining the individual characters.

Of the main three - I would say, which is to be expected, that Andrew Scott (see my Sea Wall post) as 'M' comes out on top. As the betrayed lover he walks that fine line between bitchy, hurt and desperation, giving a fully fleshed out character that in the wrong hands could have just been a one note performance. Coming in a very close second is Katherine Parkinson (The Lightning Play at the Almeida, Other Hands at Soho theatre and TV's The IT Crowd) as 'W'. This role requires softness and a hard centre, an ability to stand up for oneself and also expose an inner need. She's wonderful in her delivery. You couldn't imagine anyone else playing that part. As John, Ben Whishaw (the films Brideshead Revisited, Poison The Story of a Murderer, I'm Not There) gives a good performance but I didn't feel it was as real or nuanced as the other two. There is a third characted 'P', an older gentleman who seems to be more of a representation of an older generation than a real person. I will have to read the play to figure out if this is intentional in the writing or down to the actor - Paul Jesson (The Seagull at the Royal Court, Awake & Sing at the Almeida, Mary Stuart in the West End, on film - TV's Margaret and the film Vera Drake).

We have now arrived at the point when I explain the 'almost' part of the 'almost flawless' statement. Without giving too much away as there is a strong 'what's gong to happen?' thread that runs through the story, there is a section towards the end when all the themes and conflicts merge to be confronted. It's abit clunky. What had previously been revealed through action briefly turned into a disertation drama on the nature of bisexuality and the fluidity of desire. It felt as if he had so many ideas to get out that it seemed to be the only option - for issues to be directly confronted. There is a danger in pounding home those sort of discussions in such an obvious way. I wished it had been handled more in line with the other revelations. It's all a matter of taste. That was the only real downfall to me. A small one, one that can be excused because although it became obvious it still made made think and consider the issues.

Another play that came to mind while watching this was David Mamet's Oleanna - a play where there is no clearcut right or wrong, it's up to th viewer to make their own decision who was at fault. There are circumstances in Cock that ask the same thing from the audience. Who is right? Who is wrong? Is there a right or wrong? I found myself taking sides but I think that was firmly rooted in my own value system and past experiences (not to be revealed here, thanks).

Unfortunately it's only on until the 19th of December and it's all sold out - there are only around 80 seats in the space. It would be great to have this remounted so more people could sexperience it. I'm going again on the closing night so I can see how it evolves.

Side note: Hats off to the staff at the Royal Court - the bookshop, the coatcheck, the ushers, the bar - all fantastic and made the trip even more enjoyable. They could be the best I've come across in London.

Follow me on Twitter - @thisbarry

Coming soon - Red at the Donmar, Cat on a Hot Tin Roof at the Novello and Cock again.