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Cock-a-doodle do?

Koji Arsua (The Philippine Star) - February 15, 2014 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines - The title of the play Cock is a double-edged sword. The title is both titillating and thought-provoking. On one hand, it is quite literal: it’s about John, a young man who likes… that. On the other, it’s a cockfight between John, his boyfriend M, and his female lover W. Yes, Cock is one of those mistress movies that were once popular in Pinoy culture, except this time, it’s a woman who’s in between a gay couple.

Based on the London play by Mike Bartlett, which later enjoyed an off-Broadway run, Cock is the story of a young gay man who’s caught between his boyfriend and a female lover. The story is the “ultimate bitch fight,” as one character put it, as the three gather to “duke it out” over dinner. The play explores themes of sexuality, identity, and the despair of a failing relationship and what it takes to save it. Cock stars Topper Fabregas, Niccolo Manahan, Jenny Jamora, and Audie Gemora.

Cock is the second offering of Red Turnip Theater, a company that’s bringing modern and challenging stories with an experiential angle to Philippine audiences. They burst into the scene with their production of Closer, and Cock promises to be just as unique and in-your-face.

Supreme got to sit down with Rem Zamora, the director, as we discussed local theater, sexuality, and the perks of having the right title.

SUPREME: Red Turnip Theater describes itself as a company that likes challenging material. Why do you prefer this over traditional and conservative productions?

REM ZAMORA: Challenging is one of the many words that would describe the material we like. It’s a gut feel. If something jumps out, we go for it. What I like may not necessarily be what the others like, but we defend it and we talk about it. Although for the first two, Closer and Cock, that was almost unanimous.

Mike Bartlett, the playwright of Cock, once said that all theater is bad. What do you think of the Filipino theater scene?

It’s thriving. 2013 was great. What probably could use a little work is the audience. We need to set up an audience that would make theater a habit. We need more avenues for people to know what’s going on. Information has to get to them faster or more directly, so what we try to do is develop a personal relationship with each and everyone. The disadvantage that we have, [compared to] foreign musicals, is that they have money and they can afford billboards. It’s easy to know Wicked is showing.  I hope the government helps us, but we have to be creative, and I think creativity happens when your resources are meager. It’s brought out a lot of creativity in a lot of Filipino-produced shows.

Do you think it’s also a matter of finding the right play?

Definitely. I think it’s one of the most important things, finding the right material that audiences could connect to.

Well, you guys have the right title.

There are so many innuendos [laughs]. Some people would actually call the box office and ask, “How long is Mike Bartlett’s Cock?” and they would giggle over the phone.

What made Red Turnip decide to do Cock as its second production?

Cris Villonco [actress and member of Red Turnip] had seen Cock in New York, and it came highly recommended. She got the script, we sat down and read it, and I was on the floor, laughing. I said we have to do it, we just have to. It’s one of those rare moments that everyone said yes. I think what made it more interesting was the staging of it: there was no scenery, no props, there was nothing on stage.

Mike Bartlett said that when you watch a sex scene on stage, you see the actors humping. As an audience member, the first thing you see is the action, the bodies, and you focus on that and the dialogue comes second. But if you strip away all that, and you concentrate on the dialogue in the sex scene, you’ll listen because there’s nothing to look at.

 The Guardian critiqued the original production of Cock as not really about John’s bisexuality, but about not knowing who one really is. Is this one of the things that attracted you to do the play?

Yes. The bigger picture is knowing who you really are, and it’s brought up in the play several times: who are you, what are you? You can argue that it’s not about sexuality, but about identity. What attracted us on the surface was how clever it was written, how clever it was staged, and how funny it was.

Cock is a challenging production, especially here in conservative Philippines. How do you think it will be received?

I question that idea that Filipinos are conservative. There’s a big audience that will appreciate it. We just don’t see them, we have to get them out of the woodwork. And if conservative people watch this, great. I hope it opens their eyes. I hope that they pick up something, and if they get mad, great. Let’s talk about it. Let’s open a discussion. When the show’s over, let’s go to the bar, let’s have drinks. That’s why we put a bar outside. We want people to stay.

What do you expect the audience to pick up?

It’s not really about sexuality, but knowing who you really are. And that there’s no such thing as a perfect relationship, we’re not ever going to be in one. It may be perfect in the beginning, but all the things that we find wrong in the relationship [will come in]. It’s up to you if you’re willing to live with that. The audience can pick up so many things. If they leave the theater thinking it was a funny play, I’m okay with that. Although it doesn’t end very funny.

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Cock will be staged at Whitespace (2314 Chino Roces Ave. Extension - formerly Pasong Tamo Extension), Makati on March 7, 14, 21, 28 and April 4 (Friday, 9 p.m.); March 8, 15, 29 and April 5 (Saturday, 8 p.m.); April 5 (Saturday, 4 p.m.); March 9, 16, 23 and April 6 (Sunday, 4 p.m.) and special closing gala on April 6 (Sunday, 8 p.m.)

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Tweet the author @kojibberish.

AUDIE GEMORA CHINO ROCES AVE COCK CRIS VILLONCO JENNY JAMORA MIKE BARTLETT ONE RED TURNIP RED TURNIP THEATER
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